Community in the ashes of 9/11

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CALIF. -- On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I was at an Army conference in Leesburg, Va., approximately 30 miles from the Pentagon. It was early, and I was trying not to fall asleep during our death by PowerPoint presentation. 

I couldn't wait until the next morning. I had a tour of the Pentagon scheduled, something I had always wanted to do but not had the chance. 

It never happened. 

Around 9 a.m., a fellow soldier rushed over to me and whispered in my ear that a plane had crashed into the world trade center. The enormity of the situation didn't register until people around the large auditorium began whispering and somebody walked up to the podium. 

They announced that a situation had occurred, and the large theater size screen that had just been showing slides was illuminated with horrific scenes from the local news. 

Some people quietly cried while others just remained in shock, starring at the screen with eyes the size of saucers. A few of the soldiers in attendance worked at the Pentagon, others had friends who did. 

After what seemed like an eternity, we were all told that we had to go to our rooms, which were underground, and stay below. Smoke had filled the skies and since we had high ranking representation from every Army base around the world at the conference, we were taking the proper precautions. 

That evening was a somber one. I spent it silently in the room with several other soldiers, afraid to turn away from the television and nursing a bottle of Jack. I remember the pain. 

Each generation has their "moment." My mother can tell you exactly where she was when Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in 1968. My grandmother remembers the assassination of John F. Kennedy like it was yesterday. For me and nearly everyone else in America at the time, especially those serving in uniform, it is 9/11.

On Tuesday, it will be six years since that dreadful day when nearly 3,000 people lost their lives. What I remember most is the sense of community that came in the after math. People bonded together, leaned on each other and supported each other like neighbors should do. Strangers helped out strangers. The nation united. 

The American people actually had patience. Today, there are some of us who can not even stop for a couple minutes to pay the proper respect to the flag. What has happened and how did we so easily forget? 

This Tuesday, I ask you to remember -- not just the pain we felt for those who lost their lives and their loved ones on that dreadful morning - but remember that united sense of camaraderie that emerged from the ashes. Does it really have to take 19 terrorists to high-jack four planes before we begin to act like a community again?