It is a pain that has not faded – not even a little – over the last thirteen years. Shock from what we thought was a tragic accident turned to horror in an instant when the second plane hit the twin towers. In that one terrible second, time stood still as hundreds of millions of Americans shared the common realization that the tragedy unfolding before our eyes was deliberate.
We did not know that our nightmare would continue, but it did. Another plane, American Flight 77, tore into the Pentagon. Only later did we learn about the heroism of the passengers aboard United Flight 93 over the green fields of Pennsylvania.
I still cannot process it all. How does anyone process the horrific images of hundreds of innocent people, who only minutes before were sipping on cups of coffee and chatting with their coworkers, jumping to their deaths from breathtaking heights? How do you resolve the tragedy of the loss of so many first responders who died trying to save others? How do you look at the pictures of military personnel pulling colleagues from the burning rubble at the Pentagon and not seethe with anguish?
The anger is still there. I have tried to forget, to forgive, to compartmentalize the overwhelming sadness; but I cannot. As Americans we mourned, paid tribute and struggled to move on. But still, on this day, the gut-wrenching pain comes back, unmitigated and unfaded by time. Despite our attempts to forget, we cannot help but remember.
We will always remember.