With the 20th anniversary of 9/11 fast approaching, we are reminded of the countless memorials that have been erected nationwide, symbolizing both the tragic events of that day and the resiliency of the human spirit to rise above adversity.
Two poignant examples are The 9/11 Garden of Reflection, in Lower Makefield Township and The 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City.
Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001 was one of the most beautiful mornings ever, with mild temperatures and brilliant sunshine blanketing much of the I-95 corridor from New England to Virginia. But ironically, this gorgeous day would quickly turn in to one of the darkest in American history.
A typical rush hour was well underway in The Big Apple and elsewhere throughout the country. The network morning shows, all in full swing, offered their daily smorgasbord of news, lifestyle and other feature stories to inform and entertain their viewers.
Suddenly, at 8:46 a.m. came word of an airplane striking the North Tower of The World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. All regular radio and television programming was abruptly interrupted, with network feeds simultaneously televising an image of thick smoke billowing from the towering skyscraper.
“I received an all hands on deck call from our vice president and general manager, Merrill Reese (a.k.a. the voice of the Philadelphia Eagles) asking me to come to the station immediately, recalls Dennis Ostopowicz, a broadcast engineer and show host for Levittown-based radio station, WBCB - 1490 AM. “Preliminary reports suggested it might have been a small single engine aircraft with a student pilot and instructor that had strayed off course, but no one knew for sure,” he continues.
The sobering reality would soon become apparent, with a second plane striking the South Tower and other events soon to unfold.
Indeed, by shortly after 10 a.m., a total of four commercial aircraft, American Airlines flight 11, United Airlines flight 175, American Airlines flight 77 and United flight 93, had been commandeered and diverted by hijackers to specific targets.
American Airlines flight 11 and United Airlines flight 175 would both crash into the World Trade Center and American Airlines flight 77 would strike the Pentagon. Meanwhile, United flight 93, presumably bound for either The White House or our nation’s capitol building, would crash into a Shanksville, Pennsylvania field, thanks to the courageous actions of its passengers, who confronted the hijackers and thwarted their original plans.
The insidious and well orchestrated terrorist attacks perpetrated on New York City’s World Trade Center and elsewhere may have occurred 20 years ago, but for those of us who lived through that fateful series of events, the images are indelibly seared into our memories as if they happened just yesterday.
No one knows that better than Ellen Saracini, whose husband, Victor, was captain of ill fated United Airlines flight 175, the second of two planes that struck the iconic twin towers.
Rather than to dwell on the tragedy of that day, she, along with a small group of family members whose loved ones had also perished, conceived a plan to create a calm, tranquil place where anyone of any age could come to meditate, reflect and be inspired.