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Learning to Value Each Day: Remembering and Reflecting 9-11

  • Meghan Kleppinger
  • 2007 9 Sep
  • COMMENTS
Learning to Value Each Day: Remembering and Reflecting 9-11


I can scarcely believe so much time has passed since September 11, 2001. Whenever I allow myself to relive that day and ponder the magnitude of its impact, it takes every part of my being to not crumble from the grief that still consumes a small corner of my heart. 

It was the fall semester following my college graduation, and I was a D.C. Broadcast Journalism Intern working less than a mile from the Pentagon. On that Tuesday morning of 9/11, my sister Jena called to tell me about the second World Trade Center Tower being hit by a plane in New York City

As the bitter reality that this was an attack and not an accident began to set in, Jena's shaky voice delivered the news, "The Pentagon's been hit too." 

Blood drained from my face as I made my way to watch the news coverage in the conference room. On the television, words of terrorism and images of fire and smoke filled the screen.  It was true.  A suicide bomber used a plane to hit the Pentagon.   

Slowly, my eyes turned from the TV toward the windows that looked out on the city.  Dark, heavy billows consumed the blue sky and covered every inch of the floor to ceiling windows. I quickly realized that I was part of the history I was watching. I frantically moved to collect my fellow interns - we were told to run home, grab a bag, and get out of the city.   

While the streets became a chaotic mess of frenzied screams and honking car horns, two questions began to circulate in my head:  "Where is my family," and "Who did this?" If I could find the answers, everything would be okay. 

Climbing the staircase of the intern house, I mentally planned what I could quickly grab before making my escape from the city. As I reached the top step, there was a huge "bang" noise and the earth shook so violently that I had to grab the railing or fall. I thought it was another bomb. We were told later that it was the Pentagon wall collapsing.

Staring out the window of our "escape" car, a friend asked the question I hadn't been brave enough to entertain. "Meghan, is your dad at the Pentagon today?"

My father, a colonel in the Army, was at the Pentagon nearly every week for some meeting or another, and at the time, I honestly didn't know where he was. I couldn't get a hold of anyone except for Jena who was working feverishly to touch base with each of our family members. 

Despite being in shock, or perhaps because of it, I managed to hold myself together - no tears - just survival. I needed to be brave for my friends and my family. 

In the basement of a house in Fairfax, Virginia, I finally made contact with my father who had been pulled from a closed-door meeting in South Carolina. When I heard his voice on the phone, I released a long-held breath, the tears began to well-up, and I blubbered "Dad, they've hit the Pentagon!" 

He hadn't been told the news.  "No Meghan, that's not possible."

Of course, we know now, it was very possible, and America is much more vulnerable than we ever imagined. 

There are defining moments that shake, make or break the human character and spirit.  It's during those times we must decide whether to be strong or weak, to be a help or a hindrance, to be a victim or a survivor. After September 11, Americans stepped up and made the most difficult decision, to carry on.

I have never been more proud of my country than I was in the days following September 11.  Living in D.C. was especially exciting as we rallied, volunteered, prayed, cried, and most importantly, asked, "What can we do to help?"  Through war-torn fatigue, heroes were honored, loved ones were mourned, volunteers abounded, and blood banks had to turn away willing donors because there were just too many.     

Like my grandparents' generation experienced on the day Peal Harbor was attacked, I can pinpoint September 11 as the day that changed and challenged me. I grew up a little and experienced something I had been told for years… life is fragile.    

Times of devastation lead many to ask, "Where is God?" Looking back, it is clear that God was present, at work, and using the tragedy for good... and I believe His name was glorified through prayers turned into action, by unitied efforts, and by hearts like mine, being changed forever. 

"How can I glorify God today?" has become a question I ask now that I understand how valuable a day really is. I don't want any of my life to be lived in vain, and thankfully, I know it doesn't have to be.