Thursday, September 11, 2008

That Horrible Day

by R. Dovid Gottlieb

It’s been seven years since that horrible day.

I remember the events like they took place yesterday and in fact, just a few days ago – walking around the YU campus as part of our "Rosh Yeshiva Road Trip" – I was actually recounting exactly where and when I heard the terrible news.

Click here to read moreWaiting on line to buy breakfast, my friend Gedalyah Berger told me that on the radio they had just reported about a plane crashing into the World Trade Center.

My first thought: what an awful accident.

I then moved next door to the pizza shop where the large overhead TV showed pictures of flames shooting out the WTC. It was terrible – who would have thought that things were going to get worse; much worse.

Once in the Beis Midrash I tried – with moderate success – to focus on my learning when, before I knew it, word spread that another plane had crashed into the WTC.

At this point I knew: this was no accident.

Shocked and unsure about what this all meant, I once again tried to focus on my Gemara when word came that yet another plane had crashed into the Pentagon.

Who was doing this? I had no idea. But now one thing was for sure: we’re at war.

The next thing I remember is the mashgiach, Rabbi Yosef Blau, standing at the bimah and announcing that WTC had just fallen down. And then the entire Beis Midrash joined together for an intense and heartfelt recitation of tehillim.

At some point after that more news and more rumors started filtering in. There was a fourth plane that had crashed. Where? No one seemed to know. Was YU a possible target? Was it safe to stay? Train service was suspended and roads were being closed and at some point a group of us overloaded the one car going back to Riverdale and headed home. But not before we looked straight down Amsterdam Ave. and saw, in the distance, what looked to be a dark cloud of smoke hovering over South Manhattan.

At some point I found out that my father happened to be in the air that morning. His plane had taken off before the FAA grounded all flights. It took a little while before anyone got through to him and before my family could be sure he was OK.

More than fear, the dominant emotion that I felt on that day was confusion; total confusion. Even now I am not sure if the above timeline of events is exactly how things unfolded. I think it’s accurate, but I really can’t be sure.

Like all Americans, and especially fellow New Yorkers, I will never forget that day or the days that immediately followed.

The pain, fear, and confusion; the lives lost and the horrific pictures; the stories of inspiring heroism and the stories of unfathomable terror; the nineteen faces of pure evil and the thousands of faces of goodness; the final phone calls to say goodbye and the grateful phone calls saying, “I’m OK” – I won’t soon forget any of it.

May Hakadosh Baruch Hu bless the souls of those killed and comfort their loved ones left behind.

May He give strength and determination to all of our current and future leaders, whoever they may be, to persevere, prosecute and win the War on Terror.

And may God bless the United States of America.

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