My lasting memory of 9/11 is of coming home late that night, driving through Toledo’s Old South End and seeing something remarkably American and Midwestern.
Back then I worked at television station. I remember coming into work on a beautiful September day to the news director screaming for assistance to tune in a satellite feed of video from New York City because a plane had hit the World Trade Center. Our Fox station was new to the news game, we didn’t even have a daytime newscast. My husband, who also worked in the engineering department of the station, helped him get the video tuned in and on the air.
At the time, it was more of a curiosity. Most people assumed a small plane had gone off course and hit one of the Twin Towers. Then, just a few moments later, the second plane hit. And you know what happens next.
It was an incredibly long and stressful day filled with sorrow and fear. Our station shared a building with several government offices. We watched as all of those workers were evacuated and we stayed behind to cover the news while they checked the building for bombs.
We worked pretty late before heading home, just as it was getting dark. We drove from downtown up Broadway through Toledo’s Old South End. The Old South End is not one of Toledo’s wealthier neighborhoods. It struggles valiantly like most of the city’s core.
Just after we passed the corner of Broadway and South, I saw something I will never forget. There were three young boys, probably about 10 or 11 years old – one white, one black, and one probably Hispanic holding a great big American flag that the three of them together could barely hold. All of the cars that passed honked and them and they waved at the drivers.
I remember thinking, “You idiots, you thought hitting the tallest buildings was hitting us where we lived. You don’t know us, you don’t understand us. Tall buildings are where we go to work. This is where we live.”
Twenty years on, those little boys are now men in their thirties. I hope the past two decades have treated them kindly. I hope they have retained their instinct for doing exactly the right thing at the right time. I hope they still wave big flags. I hope they remember all of those people honking and waving and calling, “God Bless America!” Because I remember them. And just as I will never forget every awful thing that happened on 9/11, I will never forget them.