9/11 — a day to remember

Published 1:12 pm Friday, September 16, 2011

By CAM WARD / Guest Columnist

It’s hard to believe that the 10th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, a day that changed America forever, was just upon us. The grief will still be the same for many as if it were just yesterday, and for others this will be a time of reflection of how much our country has changed since that cold September day.

Like so many, I can remember Sept. 11, 2001 as if it were yesterday. It was before my election to the legislature, and I was traveling to Washington D.C. with city leaders from Alabaster.

We were scheduled to take off from Birmingham at 6:55 a.m. on U.S. Airways Flight 834. I know this because I still keep the ticket from that day on my desk.

The flight was delayed because we had mechanical problems, and once we did get airborne, it was only minutes before the first plane struck the World Trade Center. Of course, as the world was watching terrorism unfold on national television, none of us on that flight knew what was taking place.

When the plane started to descend, a crack was made about the pilot walking through the aircraft looking like he was going to be sick. Little did we know he was looking for potential threats of terrorism.

As we landed, it became obvious that we were not in Washington, D.C. The military fighter jets flying around the aircraft only reinforced that reality.

To this day, one incident from that flight will always stand out in my mind. We had stored our cell phones in the overhead compartment, and once the plane touched down, dozens of voice mail notifications started going off. It was a chorus of chirps and beeps notifying us that our families were scared, wanting to know what happened to us.

Luckily, we were some of the ones who landed safely that day in a town called Parkersburg, W. Va. As we went into the airport terminal to get a rental car, the television was turned on just in time to watch the first tower fall.

My experience that day could be repeated in several different contexts all around the country. Unfortunately, not everyone landed safely that day.

Let’s remember our thoughts from that day and pray for those families who had a loved one that perished in the attacks. The world has changed a lot since that day, but our memories and prayers for one another should never fade.

Cam Ward is a state senator from Alabaster.