In 1999, my wife, KayEm, and I went to New York to attend a wedding. After the festivities, we took a quick sight-seeing tour through Manhattan. Along the way, we noticed several street vendors selling their wares. We stopped at a booth that was covered with framed photographs of New York street scenes. We browsed the selection and located a black and white picture of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers. As a photographer, I was impressed by the framing of the shot and the way it seemed to represent NYC. I gave the vendor five bucks, stuffed the photo into KayEm’s purse and continued our tour.
Two years later, KayEm and I moved from Jacksonville, FL to Houston, TX and bought our first house. As we unpacked our boxes, we discovered the Twin Towers photo and hung it in the hallway. Everything seemed to going great for us. I had just received a promotion and in April of 2001, our first child was born. But things changed later that year.
On September 10, 2001, I was summoned to jury duty and selected for the jury. The judge told us to be back at 10:00 a.m. the next day to begin the trial. I arrived early to avoid Houston’s horrendous traffic and I had two hours to burn. I walked to a shopping center downtown to get some breakfast. I finished eating and was strolling through the mall when I noticed several people crowded around a Radio Shack. I thought it was odd that the store would be opened so early and walked over to see what was going on. To my horror, I walked up just in time to see the second plane crash into the second tower. The people around me informed me that the first tower had just been hit. We all stood around dumbfounded trying to understand what was happening. We watched the building smolder as people jumped from the windows.
“Are you coming home?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I’ll have to find out what the judge says.” We ended the call with heartfelt “I love yous.”
I rushed back to the courthouse and everyone was buzzing about the events. As I entered the building, someone said that a plane had just crashed into the Pentagon. Everyone in the courthouse was nervous because we were in a federal building and had no idea how extensive these attacks were. The deputies cleared out everyone except judges, jurors, lawyers and witnesses.
After a few tense minutes, the judge entered the courtroom and informed us that the last plane had crashed in Pennsylvania. She also let us know that council of judges had convened and they were going to proceed with trials that day.
Of course, I couldn’t concentrate on the trial. All I could think of was getting home to my wife and five month old daughter. When I finally got home, I immediately held my family close to me. The world had changed right before my eyes and I didn’t know what to expect next. All I knew was that I loved my family and I would do everything in my power to keep them safe.
Later that night after I tucked my daughter in bed, I noticed the photo of the Twin Towers hanging on the wall. All of a sudden, I felt a deep sense of loss and many questions flooded my mind. Why would someone attack us? Why did so many innocent people die? What was happening to our country?
Over the next few months, I watched our country rebound and grow stronger. I watched people of all races come together as Americans to proclaim our love for the U.S.A. I also watched my daughter grown up. Although the world she would grow up in would be starkly different from the one I grow up in, I knew everything would be all right.
9/11 tested my faith more than anything else ever has and I can honestly say that my faith has grown stronger because of it. And that $5 photo of the Twin Towers will always give me hope in the future because it reminds me that we have overcome the past. God bless America.
Join the conversation: What are your memories of 9/11?