Do you remember where you were 20 years ago today?
On Sept. 11, 2001, I leisurely made my way into work. I was 24, lived on Jeannie Lane right here in Muskogee but drove every morning to Tulsa for my happy-go-lucky writer/producer job at The TV Guide Channel. That day, I skipped the radio and listened to a CD for my 50-minute drive into Tulsa.
When I arrived at the office, I was surprised to find my co-workers gathered around one of the TVs in our common space. Due to the nature of our jobs, we all had televisions with full cable in each of our cubicles, but that morning they all gathered around one. I arrived just in time to find out that a plane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center. Minutes later, we watched in shock as the second plane hit live on the air. Little more than half an hour later, we learned a third plane hit the Pentagon. Not long after that, the brave passengers and crew of United Flight 93 thwarted the hijackers’ plan to crash a fourth plane into their final target, which experts believe was either the White House or the Capitol Building.
I’ve tried and failed to adequately explain to my daughter what it felt like as we collectively realized that what was happening was NOT an accident. Our whole world changed.
As I look over my adult life, there have been several big national moments we have experienced collectively— some traumatic, some beautiful filled with hope. This wave of the pandemic has me feeling much like I did in those early days post-9/11: the dread and uncertainty of what lies ahead coupled with the unsettling knowledge that we may never be the same again. I would prefer to live in more “precedented,” times but maybe there is no such thing. Indeed, everyone’s life has huge, gut-wrenching moments— some collective but many more private and personal. Every day someone’s whole world changes.
But we remember the heroes, don’t we? Those who run into fire. Those who hold the hands of the dying. Those who send money and resources to help with clean-up, rebuilding, medical bills. Those who step in to take care of the grieving left behind. The one who brings soup when we’re sick, or drives us to chemo, or shows up to cheer us on.
Our world right now needs more heroes. Not just big gesture heroes — but those willing to be kind. Those willing to add action to their thoughts and prayers. Those willing to act with the greater good in mind.
Holly Rosser Miller has lived and worked in Muskogee for 20 years.