Remembering 9/11

Posted 9/8/19

This week marks the 18th anniversary of 9/11. Even now, thinking about that day makes me feel melancholy. The world changed that day. It became much smaller and more divided. I remember within a …

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Remembering 9/11


This week marks the 18th anniversary of 9/11. Even now, thinking about that day makes me feel melancholy. The world changed that day. It became much smaller and more divided. 

I remember within a few feet, of where I was standing on the morning of September 11, 2001. I was in Birmingham attending a training class. Arriving early, I'd just poured a cup of coffee and was getting ready to sit down in the break room to wait for the class to begin. Several other people were drifting in.

A TV mounted on the wall was muted until we saw those first images on the screen. Several of the people who worked with me were in the Steven Covey training class – What Matters Most. Let that sink in.

The course description said it teaches how to do self-evaluation and gives students the tools to determine what is important in their lives. You can understand that some of the things that seemed important to me changed that day.

We all stood there silently watching the screen and trying to wrap our minds around what had just happened. 

At first, I thought it was a small plane. But then the video clips began looping across the screen. Then another airliner struck the second tower. There were no dry eyes in that breakroom.

That evening when I got home Jilda hugged me as I walked through the door. 

We had friends that lived in Manhattan. Getting through to them was challenging, but we learned they were safe. Forever changed, but safe.

Neither of us had much of an appetite that evening. Stepping out to the back deck, we sat lost in our thoughts as the ice ticked in our tea glasses. 

We live in the flight path for the airport in Birmingham. The planes come over high, but almost any time of the day you can look up and see aircraft whispering across the sky dragging contrails behind them. 

After the attack on the World Trade Center, the government ordered all aircraft grounded.

On that afternoon, the thing that I heard most was silence. I know that doesn't make sense, but the silence was profound. Even the hawks, crows, and sparrows seemed to be in mourning. I will never forget that day.

Another thing I remember is how our country pulled together. Other countries from around the world hurt with us. 

There will be many tributes to 9/11 this week. People who were old enough to remember will reflect on the events of that day.

I'm not sure I can add anything significant here, except to say that there was one tribute from a few years ago that resonated with me. It was a slideshow with haunting pictures. The slideshow was set to the Simon and Garfunkel song, "The Sound of Silence." A heavy metal band performed the song. The power of those words and images brought tears to my eyes.

Googling that tribute, I watched it again today. Afterwards I took a mug of coffee to the back deck and sat for a long while. Before 9/11, I'm not sure I’d ever REALLY heard the sound of silence.


Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Goes On is available on You can contact him via email at