I will always remember the month of September, 2001. I had recently graduated college and was on a trip of a lifetime. Two of my college buddies and I went backpacking through Europe. We hit 8 countries (England, Scotland, France, Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Italy and Spain) in 30 days.
We spent a day or two in a particular city before moving on. We spent the first week or so in London, Edinburgh and Paris. After Paris we headed to Berlin on September 11th. We checked into a hostel, got settled in, and were getting ready to go see the Berlin Wall. Right before we left we decided to check our email, and as I was sitting there I noticed the "living room" was packed. Being in Europe I thought they were all watching a soccer game. I got off the computer, walked in to see what was sooo entertaining and I could not believe what I saw.
The TV had a split screen with New York and Washington on fire. It took me a second or two to figure out what the heck this meant. I told my buddies, "You gotta see this." We couldn't believe it, America had been attacked.
First thought was fear. We are in Europe for 19 more days. Do we finish the trip? Do we try to get home before World War III breaks out? Will more attacks happen?
As we got more and more details we could not believe what had happened. Story of people jumping out of the windows to their death to avoid being burned alive, the rescue efforts of all the people in the different cities, the heroes on Flight 93, all bringing up such emotion as we continued on our trip.
We saw many people paying their respects to what had happened in America. The front entrance of the U.S. Embassy in Prague was covered with flowers, candles, poems, and the like. The silence there was deafening.
The flight home was half empty (versus a nearly full flight there). When we landed, we expected to see our families there as we entered the terminal, but no one was there. (Do you remember being able to go all the way to the gate?)
It was my first view of what it was like in the States when I was driving home and seeing all the car flags flying, messages on the overpasses on the freeways, messages on windows, etc. It still felt surreal.
It still feels surreal when I take the time to think about it again.
So to those who lost love ones that day, my thoughts and prayers are with you today. For those who are fighting the good fight over seas and at home, a big thank you. Keep it up, stay strong!
And to those who want to do harm to the U.S. again...you better hope we don't find you first.