Well, it's midnight and I just got back about 20 min ago. It was incredible. Very solemn; a very humbling & at times emotionally wrenching experience. I wish I had you there with me. I got there late so I missed the Navy band's performance, but there were still a ton of people there. In a way, it was as if I was given the opportunity to go back in time to right after the attacks happened and was able to witness the heartache of the victim's families firsthand. There were many of them gathered at their loved one's personal memorial, some sharing stories of the life they once had, and some just sitting there collapsed upon the memorial, crying their eyes out. I saw one lady sitting quietly, all alone in front a memorial with just the most heartbreaking expression on her face, as she just stared at the name plate of her... son? husband? brother?
I think the hardest part was toward the end of my time there when I was exiting the memorial area. At the entrance to the field of 184 memorial units, stands the first unit which is dedicated to the youngest victim, a three-year-old little girl named Dana Falkenberg. There is a plate listing her Mom, Dad and older sister and showing the locations of their memorial units. They all died together; they were on board American Airlines Flight 77 when it crashed into the Pentagon. It was pretty hard to hold back the tears. Especially when I looked around and a good half of the people around you have tears in their eyes. I'm sure there were perfect strangers hugging each other tonight.
The one thing that was foremost on my mind, was the fact that if these people and the other NYTC victims hadn't died that day, I most likely wouldn't be here tonight, or in the Air Force at all. It is strange how the lives and deaths of others can effect so many people who didn't even know them personally, even change the course of their lives.
I hate it when I hear people say, "Oh, who wants to remember that day anymore" or "We shouldn't think about that day & all those people who died". I think I agree more with the words carved on the Memorial Gateway Stone, "We will never forget" & "These lives will never be forgotten". That's the reason we built this memorial, to honor their lives and their sacrifice and to honor the families they left behind.