I grew up in New Jersey on Monmouth Bay, near the Keyport docks, across from which the Twin Towers stood.

When the attacks happened, I was in Washington, D.C., attending college.

I’m mourning today. But, I’ll be flying.

I’ve had this web site in some form or another since 2000. Here is what I posted a week after the attacks in 2001. This was before I knew I wanted to write for a living, before I knew whom I would marry, before I knew, really, much of anything. I had freshly turned 20.

When I read my old post, I feel sort of tender about it. I detect a loss of innocence that was shared by a nation.

God Bless the U.S.A
By Andrea James

September 11, 2001 .

I don’t think I will ever forget it. I don’t think any American will.

So this is how the Greatest Generation felt when the U.S. was attacked in 1941.

So this is how women in the 60’s coped with sending their men off to battle.

So this is the freedom that people like my father fought for and risked their lives to protect.

I didn’t think I would ever have to understand these things.

Unfortunately, now I do.

I love this country with all my heart – I always have.

I love our ideals, our concept of freedom, I love how the poorest boy can grow up to be President.

In this country, one has a chance.

Every concept of the American dream, I also love.

But I never understood how lucky we really were to be able to have such dreams.

I have always respected our armed forces and those who act covertly every day in ways that we will never know.

And I always have read the news and felt sorrow for those who are not so fortunate to live a life such as I.

And I have also thanked God for allowing us to live without fear and terror…for allowing us to be able to pursue our lives without worrying about wars and conflict getting in the way of our personal goals.

But I never really understood completely until that otherwise sunny Tuesday.

Everybody has a story about that morning. Where they were. How they found out. What they were doing. Some stories are more dramatic, some are more tragic, each one is unique. But every story has the same feelings attached to it.

Feelings that cannot be expressed by the English language completely.

And as I sat there watching those two majestic towers fall live before my eyes, and as I sat there willing them not to fall, I realized that my life would never be the same.

My mind has now been awakened to the horrors that much of the world faces every day.

Since that Tuesday, I have calmed down. My anger and grief has subsided, and I am more proud of this country than ever.

We have always triumphed, and we will again.

With this new war, triumph does not equal atomic bombs, nor shameful surrender of our enemy.

It means simply that we will continue to lead the peaceful lives that we always have, free from fear and anxiety.

Wave your flags high, and wave them proud, for our spirit will never die.

God Bless America

The day after the attacks, an impromptu candle-light vigil sprung up on Capitol Hill.

About 2,000 people showed up.  We sat around the circular reflecting pool in front of the Capitol, gleaming white against a clear night sky.

People filed in quietly and solemnly, carrying American flags.

We sat in silence and prayer. Imagine 2,000 people and silence.

Soon, a small choir began to sing patriotic songs, and the rest of us chimed in.
But the songs were not loud and boisterious.  People sang in whispers.

Songs such as America the Beautiful, God Bless America, This Land is Your Land, My Country Tis of Thee, Amazing Grace, This Little Light of Mine, You’re A Grand Old Flag, Glory Halleluja and The Star Spangled Banner.

After singing The Star Spangled Banner for the first time, one man shouted “God Bless America!”

Soon other started to follow one at a time, until the air was filled with solemn shouts of “God Bless America.”  And then finally, some cheers broke the night air.

My heart swelled with pride at the resolve and support I felt there.

The vigil ended with one final singing of our Anthem and then the playing of taps by someone on a bugle.

We were allowed to shake the hands and honor some of the firemen who were helping at the  Pentagon.  A long line formed to thank these men. I didn’t know how to express my appreciation in words, but I tried anyway.

Here are two photos I took with a film camera:

Some links:

  1. The entire air-traffic control script from Sept. 11, 2001. Includes audio. (Rutgers Law Review. Link.)
  2. Never-before seen photos and commentary from war photographer James Nachtwey. (Time. Link.)
  3. Profile of Lt. Marc Sasseville, an Air National Guard officer who scrambled a jet to defend the capital. (Wall Street Journal. Link.)
  4. Profile of Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney, also an F-16 pilot who flew with Sasseville and was ready to give her life to divert a hijacked plane. (Washington Post. Link.)
  5. “We’ll never get over it. Nor should we.” (Peggy Noonan, columnist for the Wall Street Journal. Link.)
  6. A day that stands alone. (New York Times. Link.)
  7. Paul Simon sings ‘The Sound of Silence’ at the memorial ceremony in New York. (NPR (audio). Link. YouTube (video). Link.)
  8. How September 11 unfolded. A connection of CNN clips. (CNN. Link.)