By Jimmy Preston
KTSW Web Content
Fourteen years ago today, for many in the Texas State University student population, was just a normal day. Many were getting ready for elementary or middle school. None could have imagined that on that day thousands of lives would be lost in New York, hundreds more in a Pennsylvania field and at the Pentagon, and this country would be transformed forever.
Like many other, older, non-traditional students I was getting ready for work. I had a cushy job as a software engineer for a telecommunications company in Reston Virginia, and was listening to the Howard Stern Show on the radio as I was deciding which tie to wear that day. During his broadcast, news of the first plane had trickled in, and initially Stern and his crew had dismissed it as a Cessna or small private jet that had struck the tower accidentally. As they were commenting on the footage on the TV, it wasn’t until the second plane hit the second tower that everyone realized that we were under attack. This wasn’t an accident.
As I ran from room to room of the Annandale,VA house I lived in and awoke my roommates we gathered in front of the television trying to find answers to a question that still today is somewhat unanswered. We sat in front of the television for hours, making calls to loved ones in New York, calls to friends and family in the military to see if we needed to prepare for another strike.
As the fire in the towers spread, reports of a plane which had left Dulles Airport and was unresponsive to air-traffic controllers hit the newswire and soon the sound of F-14s, scrambling to intercept, were heard overhead. After flight 93 went down in rural Pennsylvania, and the hit to the Pentagon we quickly realized that we were under attack on our own soil and that our lives were forever changed.
On this day every year we remember those lives that were lost, and we grieve for the family members that had a hole ripped in their heart. It would be a mistake if we didn’t also think of all the servicemen and women that were called to action that day. As you look around on campus you may see a classmate that doesn’t quite seem like the others. They may be older with a few more road miles on them compared to your other classmates. They may seem distant today, as they think about the events that called them into service, or about the day that all of their training was called into action. With over 5,000 American lives lost in Afghanistan and Iraq it’s possible the vet sitting next to you in class has felt the pain and loss of losing a fellow soldier, friend, brother, or sister on the battlefield. Be sure to thank them for their service.
While it is important to remember today and the lives lost by a terrible act of terrorism, it is equally important to remember the way the country came together in the days, weeks and months afterwards. An act of terror transformed this country and its people. The weeks after 9/11 were followed by many acts of patriotism; jets flying overhead at the ballgames, moments of silence, and American flags were everywhere.
In the aftermath, we came together as a country. Communities were made tighter, new friendships were born, and healing began. As we rallied behind the troops we sent off to fight, we united behind them as one nation. When we remember today, and the tragedy of 14 years ago, let us not forget how we once came together as Americans, and how we can do it again.
**This post is dedicated to the memory of Staff Sgt. Lester “Buddy” Kinney, II of the 82nd Airborne. Buddy was sent to Afghanistan shortly after 9/11 and was killed by an IED attack in 2004 in Iraq. His love for his country, wife and family exemplified the character of an Airborne Ranger, and was one of the best that this country had in uniform.