It’s 17 years later and it still seems surrealistic to me.
September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday morning and when our alarms went off to get the kids up and ready for school, I turned on the news like I always did, but this time was different – much different.
The images of the World Trade Center burning after being hit by a plane couldn’t be true. Then a second plane hit the other tower. Was this a bad dream? It couldn’t be happening.
But it was.
At that point, my wife Coni and I knew we had to tell the kids. As we woke them up and explained what was happening, the older ones were like we were – somewhat in shock and disbelieving. The younger ones were confused, trying to comprehend what we were telling them.
Countless thoughts raced through our minds. Are the schools going to open? Do we send the kid? Were we in any danger? Our house in Pleasanton was directly in line with one of the approaches to the Oakland Airport and it was hard not to think about another plane crashing.
We called the schools and thankfully they were going to open. It was without hesitation we made the decision for the kids to go to school. We knew some people would be holding their kids home that day, but our thoughts were to show we were going to live our lives and not cave in to fear.
It was eerie walking the kids to school without seeing or hearing one plane in the air. At the elementary school people were just walking around almost in a daze.
The rest of the day we spent staring at the TV, at times with tears and other times just shaking our heads.
At the time I was the local sports editor for the Tri-Valley Herald in Pleasanton and being in the fall, a high school football Friday was looming. Some schools canceled their games for that Friday night while others went ahead with their games.
There was no right or wrong answer – schools just did what they felt was best. That September 14 I covered a game at Monte Vista High in Danville. It was cathartic to say the very least. To see life go on was a much-needed thing for all of us in attendance.
Of all the great teams, players and games I covered, the singing of the National Anthem that night is something I will never forget. Everyone sang together, and you could just feel the emotion of the moment. Who won the game was secondary to the fact there was a game. Terrorists had tried to intimidate us, but we collectively stood up and shouted – “You cannot take away our pride and lives.”
We live life but looking back 17 years I am still hurt and angry. All of us lost something that day as in some way it seemed like we were all connected to someone who died that day. Whether it was someone working in your home town to knowing someone who lost a relative that day, we were all there together.
For many of us in Pleasanton the connection was with Tom Burnett who was the COO for Thoratec, a medical devices company located in the city. Burnett was one of the key figures on United Flight 93 where the passengers fought back, forcing the plane to crash in a Pennsylvania field before it could reach its target, reported to be either the Capitol or the White House.
Thoratec has been sold, but each year, no matter what business occupies the space, there is a memorial set up for Burnett. And every year, I stop and pay my respects for a man I never met but will always have the utmost respect.
Our children, when they are in the area, stop by the memorial as well.
September 11, 2001 is a day none of us will ever forget and it shouldn’t be. In this day of constant dissent and animosity, maybe we all need to take a step back, breath and be thankful for what we have.
Bless you and your family.
By Dennis Miller