It was supposed to be a time of happiness.
My wife and I were just landing at the airport in Milan, Italy on our honeymoon. An Italian guy from our flight comes up to us, “You are Americans, yes? Terrorists bomb your twin towers!” He hurriedly ran off, telling some other people. My wife and I looked at each other with puzzled glances. We looked around and no one seemed to be in any kind of panic or rush. Everyone kind of had the same “What the hell is he talking about?” look.
There weren’t any TV sets in the airport, at least not where we were. We exchanged some dollars for Lira and bought a prepaid phone card. We found a pay phone and called home to let our parents know that we got there okay. It was about 9:15 Eastern Time, so everyone was at work… we just left a message on the answering machine and went to collect our luggage. Half of which was lost, of course. So we waited in line and filed the claim form with the airline, then boarded a train for the city. We were exhausted from the trip, and just wanted to get checked in to the hotel. From the train station we got a cab, and the cabbie had the radio on. They were talking away in rapid-fire Italian, which I barely know, and could only catch a word here and there, but not enough to piece together what was going on.
We got to the hotel and schlepped our luggage up to the reception desk on the 2nd floor. When we got there, no one was at the desk. Instead, they were all at the miniature bar behind the reception desk, saddled up to the TV sets showing CNN Europe. That’s when we saw. That’s when everything changed.
We couldn’t understand the words, just see the images on the screen. First Flight 11 hits the North Tower. Then Flight 175 hits the South tower. Flames. Smoke. The Towers fall.
Shock. Horror. Disbelief. Fear. Anger. Wondering if you’re going to make it home to see your loved ones alive. None of the emotions or thoughts you’re supposed to be having on the first day of your honeymoon. Thoughts that you should never have to experience ever.
But there we were, in a foreign country, not knowing what the hell was going on, not knowing how we were going to get back.
We were lucky. We weren’t in those planes. We weren’t in the towers. None of our family was, either. We were blessed. But that doesn’t change that that imprint on our lives and on our marriage was — and is — indelible.
Our country and our way of life were attacked that day. It was a defining moment in our nation. A moment when we could choose to stand together and united for our freedoms and our liberties and our way of life, or a moment where we could choose to be selfish, to be opportunistic, to point the finger of blame in an effort to advance an agenda. A moment where we could choose to be outraged and strike back at our attackers with the full might and fury of We the People of the United States of America, or a moment where we could choose to try and “understand” our enemy and to try to “make peace” with those who only sees peace through our death. It was a moment where we could choose to sacrifice and to fight and to do the things that our forefathers did to make this nation great, or we could choose instead to simply go shopping.
For a moment, a brief moment, we made the right choice. Then we heard about a sale down at Best Buy on flatscreen TVs, and we once again put a higher value on stuff than we put on our freedom.