Recalling the day we were all united in grief
It’s not hyperbole to suggest that the history of American security can be divided into two periods: before 9/11 and after 9/11.
On Monday, Southern Marylanders will join the nation as we remember the 2,996 lives lost in the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, including 343 firefighters and 72 law enforcement officers. More than 6,000 others were injured. It was the deadliest day in U.S. history for first responders. And in many ways, it changed us all forever.
For children, unless you’re a junior or senior in high school today, this tragedy unfolded before you were born. It’s like hearing tales of Pearl Harbor. But many of us who are adults can recall exactly where we were 16 years ago, on that delightfully temperate Tuesday morning under a cloudless, cerulean-blue sky. A beautiful morning that turned horrific before Calvert had its second cup of coffee.
That awful day, terrorist hijackers deliberately crashed two commercial jets into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York, and another into the Pentagon. A handful of brave passengers stormed the cockpit of a fourth airliner and fought the terrorists, ultimately crashing the jet into a field in western Pennsylvania before it could turn into another guided missile.
The first crash into the north tower, when the news broke, seemed like a bizarre, freak accident. How could air traffic control go so wrong? Was the pilot ill? What could have happened? When the second airliner slammed the south tower, sadly, sickly, we knew it was something else. Something nefarious and evil.
It was in the days before social media, so for those not already tuned in and unable to look away from the television that day, there were phone calls telling us to turn on the news. We witnessed the shock and horror of the video and photos of the attack and the subsequent collapse of the Twin Towers. We made efforts to reach friends and loved ones feared to be in harm’s way, all the while trying to make sense of what had happened.
Then came the news that hit Southern Maryland most directly. Another jetliner — American Airlines Flight 77 — had crashed into the Pentagon, killing nine people from this area among the 125 who perished.
Kris Romeo Bishundat, 23, of Waldorf was a Navy petty officer assigned to the Pentagon just three months before the attack.
Donna Marie Bowen, 42, of Waldorf was a Verizon telephone worker assigned to an Army budgeting office.
Sharon S. Carver, 38, of Waldorf was a civilian accountant for the Army.
Angela M. Houtz, 27, of La Plata was a civilian analyst with the Office of Naval Intelligence.
Shelley A. Marshall, 37, of Marbury was a budget analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Gerard P. “Jerry” Moran Jr., 39, of Upper Marlboro was an engineering contractor with the Navy and softball and powerlifting coach at St. Mary’s Ryken High School.
Marvin Roger Woods, 57, of Great Mills was a retired Navy communications chief who worked as a civilian communications specialist at the Pentagon.
John D. Yamnicky Sr., 71, of Waldorf was a retired Navy test pilot who was a passenger aboard the airliner.
Edmond Young Jr., 22, of Owings was a civilian technician who was assisting a general with a computer problem when the airliner struck the building.
We remember them, and we honor them.
Please take a moment Monday to recall the five men and four women from Southern Maryland who lost their lives that day, among so many others, as well as the sacrifice and bravery of firefighters and law enforcement officers, and regular civilians.
Also, take a moment to reflect on the national unity and resolve that developed 16 years ago in the wake of the worst terror attack on American soil. Remember in these times of strife and unrest that we are, and always have been, more alike than we are different. Perhaps we need that reassurance now more than ever.