How an Insurrection Brought Me Back to 9/11

This picture hangs in my office. I will never forget.

I lost many people on 9/11. Like everyone, I watched in horror was planes flew into buildings and threatened our nation’s Capitol. I set up a 1-800 phone line for employees and their families to contact us. We sat in a phone bank for hours and then days and soon weeks. We had celebratory phone calls when an employee found their way home. We cried with family members in the middle of the night.

As I watched the events of January 6 unfold, I was immediately taken back to 9/11. I received a phone call early that Tuesday morning from New York. The employee said they were being vacated due to a plane hitting the other tower. We assumed “it was nothing” and probably “an over reaction”. My initial reaction on 1/6/21 was much the same. We were so very wrong.

However, the confusion, the fear, the cacophony brought instant panic to a part of me that I try to forget. I read the stories of those caught in the onslaught and cried at their feelings of helplessness and terror. I remember all of the stories of different friends and employees helping each other down the stairs of the Second Tower. There were no lights. The heat was extreme because the air was out. Water poured in. They continued down in the darkness, crying, praying, and supporting each other.

On that day we all fought a common enemy. They were “the other”. It was easy for many to demonize these brown people of another religion. We passed quick legislation and started a war we are still fighting.

How will we respond when this enemy is homemade? When they are mostly white men? When they all claim to worship the same Christian God? Will we be so quick to unite against them when they look like so many of us?

The actions were exactly the same – these are terrorist groups looking to destroy our country. We must respond in kind or foreign adversaries will be the least of our concerns if we cannot control the enemy within.

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