One reader asked me to reconsider running the column you are about to read.
From all of the responses I received from my request for 9/11 memories, I pulled three that represent a cross-section of people and activities.
From Rachel West: "I was working as a temp in a blood bank in Sacramento right after college. I heard the news on my way to work. Since I heard it on the radio, I had no idea what the scope of the tragedy was until I arrived at the office.
"My immediate thoughts were that it was horrible, but probably wouldn't affect me. However, within the first hour, the call went out for blood donations, and we were all swamped with people coming to make donations and trying to get everything sorted to ship out to the East Coast as soon as possible. It was an incredibly eye-opening day, in more ways than one."
Mark Berman, a physician, wrote: "I was on the treadmill at home watching TV before it happened, about 5:30 a.m. The news started covering the first crash into the World Trade Center, and I watched as the second plane hit the towers in real time. I remember my wife came downstairs at some point and I said, 'Turn on the TV!' She asked 'What channel?' and I said 'It doesn't matter.'"
And there was this from Kim Ogle, a teacher and Newport Coast resident: "Our son was three days into his first day of school at Corona del Mar High, my husband was going to work in Irvine, and I was off to teach at El Toro High School. My husband woke me up and said, 'A plane just hit one of the Twin Towers in New York.' I think my reaction was, 'Gee, that's too bad.' It was only 5:30 am., and we didn't want to alarm our son, but we were glued to the TV.
"The three of us barely ate breakfast, got our son to school and were on the road, constantly scared to think the impossible — could this be headed our way? As teachers, we really had no idea what to do that day as far as a lesson plan. Do we turn on the TV? Do we pretend to go on as usual? Individually, we struggled, and tried our hardest to let the kids help drive the day as well. We only knew the kids for three days, so we had absolutely no idea if they had any connection to this disaster, nor did we know that day it would become the worst terrorist disaster in the history of our country — even eclipsing Pearl Harbor."
9/11 is so powerful a memory that its legacy does not even require us to cite the year.
My own memories include turning on the TV for the first time in seven years. What I will most remember, though, was my trip to New York six months after the attack. As a frequent visitor to the Big Apple, I noticed a change in New Yorkers. They were still in shock, and it was clear to me that the memory of the attack would be with them forever.
If any good has come from that day, it is that more of us may now realize how fragile life is, how at any moment, we could be gone. Please take just a moment today to remember not only those who died in the towers and on the streets below, but the courageous emergency personnel who tried to save them.
STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.