Forever etched in memory the destruction of the World Trade towers Sept 11 2001 and the two other plane crashes that took hundreds more lives at the Pentagon and in a Pennsylvania field mdashGetty Images Spencer Platt

Forever etched in memory, the destruction of the World Trade towers Sept. 11, 2001, and the two other plane crashes that took hundreds more lives at the Pentagon and in a Pennsylvania field. —Getty Images, Spencer Platt

Seared in memory, that beautiful September morning of horror

I had written something else for this space, and then I noticed the issue date for this week’s Delta Farm Press: 9/11.

And as for everyone who lived through that 2001 day of horror on a scale almost incomprehensible, there came to mind the memory of that day.

As I drove up Highway 61 to Memphis that morning for a meeting, the thought occurred more than once: What a gorgeous day! One could not have wished a more perfect morning. After a sweltering summer, a front the previous evening had cleared away dust and glop in the air, the temperature was deliciously cool, skies startlingly blue — one of those days we who endure convection oven southern summers wish there would be more of.

The riveting photo of the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade towers. —Getty Images
The riveting photo of the remains of the World Trade tower superstructure following 9/11.—Getty Images, Chris Hondros

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Past the halfway point, north of Tunica, came a bulletin on the radio: A plane had hit a World Trade Center tower, but no details. Bad, but plane crashes in New York weren’t without precedent — even the fabled Empire State Building once was hit by a military airplane, killing 14 people, and a 1960 mid-air collision over the city killed 128 people on the planes and more where they crashed in Brooklyn and on Staten Island.

Then details started flowing. Horrible, gut-wrenching details. Another plane, another tower hit. Both buildings in flames, unimaginable destruction.

By that time I was in Memphis and went into a hotel near the airport where I knew there was a big screen TV, watching transfixed as the towering symbols of American leadership in the world of commerce crashed sickeningly to the ground, the Pentagon in Washington was hit, and a fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania, killing everyone.

Finally, as the hotel filled with grounded travelers, I headed home. The day was still stunningly beautiful, but the sky to the south — normally filled all day long with airplanes in the landing pattern for Memphis International — was eerily empty, not a single plane to be seen anywhere; across the nation, every non-military flight was grounded.

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The sparkling new Freedom Tower erected on the site of the destroyed World Trade Center. —Getty Images, Mario Tama

Now, 14 years later, in a country and a world changed in so many ways by the events of that day, a gleaming new tower stands on the New York skyline, and thousands come daily to view the memorial to the almost 3,000 who perished there. Finally, after 14 years, there was recently opened a national memorial in the Pennsylvania field where United Flight 93 crashed, killing all 40 people aboard. A memorial to the 59 passengers and crew on American Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon, and the 125 people in the building who died, is located just south of the Pentagon near Arlington National Cemetery.

That we, as a nation, survived this cruel trauma at the hands of an enemy we little knew or understood — and demonstrated again our collective will to triumph — is a testament to the strength, determination, and resilience that has characterized Americans for almost 250 years.

But forget? Never!

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