By Rusty Bradshaw
Here we are, 18 years after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, and some have forgotten how quickly our lives can change, and not always for the better.
They say that time heals all wounds. But there are some wounds that should stay with us as reminders of events that changed so many lives. The visual scars of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York; Washington, D.C.; and Pennsylvania are all but invisible. Near the site of the Twin Towers, a new skyscraper was erected to take their place. Sure, there is a memorial there, but how many young people really understand its significance. The Pentagon was repaired to its previous appearance and the field in Pennsylvania wher Flight 93 crashed is now overgrown. Yes, there are memorials in those locations also, but not the visual reminders.
The Sept. 11 attacks have been compared to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941 that brought the United States into World War II. Both were sneak attacks and citizens had not been as single-minded of purpose since the attack in Hawaii as they were after 9/11. Few people can visit Hawaii without going to the USS Arizona memorial, which includes the remains of the battleship destroyed during that attack so long ago. People can peer down into the ship’s hull under the harbor water and visualize the catastrophic explosion that shattered the mighty ship of the line.
There was a time when people could visit Ground Zero in New York City and see the devastation for themselves. I was one of those people. My visit came six years after the attacks, but the crater left by the towers’ collapse and some of the debris remained. It was a sobering experience to stand on a spot overlooking that crater and to be just outside the doors of Fire Department of New York Station Ladder 10, the station closest to the towers. It was hard not to get emotional, even though, to my knowledge, I knew no one who was killed in or survived the devastation at the World Trade Center. Those images are etched in my mind, and likely always will be.
Because of that, I will always remember how precious are our lives and freedoms as Americans, and how quickly both can disappear if we take them for granted.
On the day of the 9/11 attacks I was working for Platt Electric Supply in Walla Walla, Washington, during a short break in my journalism career. That morning unloaded a semi-trailer full of large electrical transformers that were to be delivered to one of the Pacific Northwest dams, a federal installation. The 9/11 attacks forced a moratorium on non-federal deliveries to that and other federal facilities. The transformers, and so many other parts destined for other government-related agencies, sat in the Platt warehouse for months. When the delivery ban was lifted, I was assigned to take them to the dam. The passage of time has erased from my memory which dam it was, but I distinctly recall the security I had to go through to get the truck into the dam storage area and the suspicion that prevailed when I could not get the truck started after unloading.
That delay on deliveries, and a number of cancellations, led to a need for Platt management to cut staff at the
Walla Walla store and, being the last hired, I was laid off. While that was a difficult situation at the time, it did lead me to Arizona.
Those changes in my life can be attributed to the 9/11 attacks. But they eventually brought more positive changes. Yet another reason for me to appreciate the opportunities I have as an American and to not take them for granted.
That approach, that philosophy have nothing to do with patriotism, nothing to do with nationalism. It is more about being grateful for the privilege of living in this country and being able to take advantage of what it has to offer.
With all the images — television, Internet, still photos, artwork, etc. — from 9/11, there is little chance I will forget that day and the changes it brought throughout the country, even to areas far removed from the attack sites. But what really brought it home to me was that visit to Ground Zero. Memorials and museums are one things, actually seeing the location in its most raw appearance was quite another.