Remembering the important times for our nation

The night of September 10, 2001, I was covering a meeting of Weirton Council. I had joined this newspaper only a few weeks prior, so it was my first regular council meeting and I was still getting acquainted with everyone. I remember very little about that night. I couldn’t tell you a single piece of legislation discussed or what the votes were.

The next morning, of course, was more vivid.

The full staff was sitting in the newsroom, finishing up the day’s edition. A little before 9 a.m., a co-worker came in and said a plane had just hit part of the World Trade Center in New York. None of us were certain what was happening, but we went upstairs to the only television in the building at the time and tuned in to one of the national networks. A moment later, the second plane struck the towers.

We were shocked, and quiet, watching the replays of what we later would learn was a terrorist attack against the United States.

Eventually, we would have to go back downstairs to the Weirton newsroom to finish our morning work, but then our news staff would hit the streets, gathering public reaction and planning for the next day’s paper. I remember looking up into the skies, on more than one occasion that afternoon, wondering if it could happen here. We later learned, of course, just how close one of the four planes was to the Ohio Valley.

We all put in extra hours that day, and a television was brought in so we could see some of the national updates. I can remember watching a live broadcast, as members of Congress gathered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, standing in solidarity. There wasn’t finger-pointing or battles between Democrats and Republicans. It was a brief moment where the nation stood united.

The point of all this is to think of those moments which are lodged firmly into our memories. It’s interesting to look back and realize what sticks with us, even with events which are only a day apart.

Those of us who were alive then all have memories of that day. We can probably recall where we were and what we were doing when we first learned of the attacks.

We remember those images, the television broadcasts of the planes striking the Twin Towers, the damage done to the Pentagon, the crash in Pennsylvania. We may remember those who surrounded us when we heard the news.

It’s vivid. It is there for the rest of our lives.

These are the stories we may tell to the future generations; those who were either were very young or not yet born on that day. It is the same with many major moments in our history. Older generations recall their thoughts and memories of December 7, 1941, or November 22, 1963, or January 28, 1986. What can any of us remember about the details of the days before or after them?

Just as with those dates, the events of September 11, 2001 have become a part of our nation’s history. It is a point which will be remembered, and marked, for years to come, either by our own memories or as part of history classes.

This weekend, as we mark 20 years since those attacks, we continue to say that we, as a nation, will never forget. Nor should we. It’s not about politics. It’s about remembering those turning points in the path of our nation.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)


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