By: Nicholas W. Stuller
I still find it hard to process the fact that twenty years ago today our country was attacked and nearly 3,000 innocent citizens lost their lives. We must never forget what happened and by sharing and reading others stories, we can better process, grieve and recall the bravery of those that put their lives at risk for others on that day and the days, months and years to follow to stop an event like this from happening again.
On 9/11 I was in Paris, France to attend an industry conference. I arrived a couple days earlier as I had planned a vacation after the conference with travel to London and Amsterdam. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, I was sightseeing at a church when I noticed a commotion among the other tourists. Someone who spoke English said they heard a small plane hit one of the Twin Towers, which a lot of people heard as well in those early minutes.
A moment later an American approached me and said, no, it was not a small plane, it was two commercial jet planes and both of the towers were hit and have fallen. He said he had watched it on TV. I immediately went back to the hotel to see for myself. Indeed, the TV on the room was playing the coverage of the horrible, and unbelievable events. I think I was in some form of shock, and just sat there watching the TV for hours, feeling more removed as the TV had no English language stations and I did not speak French.
After many hours I was able to contact family to check on them, and it took me many hours more to verify that two of my salespeople were okay as I knew they had sales meetings that day, one of them close to the Towers. Being a New Yorker, I have a number of friends that saw horrific things, were in the immediate area and traumatized, or knew people that lost their lives.
That evening I went to dinner, taking a cab to the restaurant. During the cab ride, the driver asked if I was American. After replying yes, the French cab driver rather emotionally said “I am so sorry about the Twin Towers”. I did not know what to say other than thank you. Quite remarkably, on several other occasions that evening, at the restaurant, at a bar, strangers from France and what I believe to be other countries came up to me to offer their sorrow for what had happened to the United States. I still think about all the different people that evening that approached with a sympathetic word.
The conference started the next day, but at its conclusion I cut the trip short and got back to the U.S. once the planes were flying again. I was very thankful to be back on home soil close to family and friends.
We owe our sympathy and love for the victims and their families of this horrific tragedy. We owe gratitude that can never be adequately communicated to the heroes on that day from the passengers of flight 93 to the firemen who ran into the towers, to the military who pursued the evil perpetrators of 9/11. We shall never forget.