I had just dropped off my oldest daughter at school. I was listening to the “Mike & Mike” show on ESPN radio when Mike Greenberg announced a plane had crashed into one of the towers. It was initially thought to be a tragic accident. About one minute later, he said this was no accident…
When I got to work, everybody was around the many television sets in the hospital. The video sent a cold chill throughout everyone watching. Questions came from all directions. How could anyone do this? Who did this? Would there be another attack? If so, where was the target? My co-workers were not panicking by any means, but an atmosphere of deep somber permeated all corners of our hospital. The clinical teams focused on patient care and those in the C-suite pulled out our disaster manuals and began to refresh our understanding of what to do, who would do what, etc. Our CEO was in New York, so our first thoughts were of her safety. She was able to call to let us know she was safe, but stuck at the airport as all flights had been grounded. No one knew when she could travel back.
I was President of the Longview United Way and the annual campaign kickoff luncheon was scheduled for that day at the convention center. A crowd of 700+ was expected for the event. One of the campaign co-chairs wanted to cancel the event as rumors flew that President Bush was on Air Force One heading to Barksdale AFB in Shreveport about 60 miles away. She was worried, rightfully so, that he was a target and our area could be subject to an attack. The only answer I had for her and for the campaign leadership team was if the President was headed to Barksdale (he was), that half of the US Air Force must be around that plane. I would not cancel the luncheon event – our campaign was too important to the thousands in the community who needed the United Way. I guess the hubris in me refused to let terrorists win, maybe it was a feeling that we had to go on with our lives.
As part of the response that grounded commercial air traffic, the Amtrak train was stopped at the Longview station with over 100 passengers. These folks needed a meal. The United Way Executive Director asked me if they could join our luncheon. Of course, they were invited. I do not recall much of what I, or any of the other speakers, said on that day. But I remember a sense of determination of the attendees as they left the center. Determination that we would face the challenges brought onto our nation, while our nation’s nose was broken and bloodied, we were not defeated – not by a long shot.
Please take a moment to remember the victims in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and flight 93. And especially remember those first responders who went into the towers, denying the base human instinct to run from disaster, and saved people. Many of these first responders lost their lives in the collapse of the towers.
Far more eloquent people can express the emotions of September 11. I just wanted to share how a group of people 1600 miles away did their part to reach out and share what we had with a group of strangers who happened upon our city. Remember we are Americans first and it is in our nature to give of ourselves to help others.