Good Luck

September 27th, 2021
L&T Opinions Page

SAINTS PERSPECTIVE, Phillip Lee, SCCC marketing


There are moments – events — in life that you never forget. That create memories so powerful you can identify exactly what you were doing. John F. Kennedy being shot, the first man on the moon, the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, the start of the Iraq War in 1990 and the Oklahoma City bombing, just to name a few. 

I remember a few of those quite vividly, others not so much. But one event I will never forget is the attack on September 11. I have a little different perspective on the matter because I was born and raised in New York City. I lived there for 35 years before I moved to Liberal. 

And it wasn’t that I just lived in New York, but I considered the World Trade Area my stomping ground. I worked in and hung out in that area for more than a decade. I would wander into the buildings to visit the shops and access mass transit in the World Trade Center hub more often than I can remember. 

It's been 20 years — I can’t believe it’s been that long — but I'll always remember it like it was yesterday. That day, it had been two years since I left New York to come to Kansas. That morning, I was going to get some blood work done at the doctor’s office. The nurse said, “a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center! ”At first, I didn't believe it. That was absolutely ridiculous. But the more I thought about it, the more I reasoned that “well, maybe it's a small plane and I guess that could happen.” 

Driving back to the house, I listened to the details on the radio. I got home, immediately turned on the television and watched the disaster unfold. 

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As I’m watching, my mind starts to scramble and I’m flooded with questions. “I wonder where my parents are?” “What about my brother and sister?” “My friends?” I’m pretty sure everyone is OK but there’s a sense of panic. I’m calling and all I get is the automated message: “all circuits are busy.” 

It wasn’t until hours later that I finally got through and everyone was in fact OK, but in shock about what had happened. 

The scenes on TV were dramatic. The billowing smoke from both towers. The fire that I watched burning buildings and the eventual collapse of the Twin Towers. It was incredibly surreal. You didn’t believe it was happening, but it did. It wasn’t a movie or a TV show. It was real. 

It was deeply personal. A tragedy that hit home only because I had been there. I pretty much walked every inch of the World Trade Center area hundreds if not thousands of times. And then I wondered if I would’ve been there, if I hadn’t moved to Kansas. Maybe. Maybe not. When I lived in New York, it was certainly a possibility — especially in the morning. 

I won’t watch any footage or documentaries or movies about the event. It’s just too hard. The panic in the streets, the terror and the chaos. It’s too hard to relive. 

Just as an aside, I did know people who perished in the attack – high school acquaintances, first responders. And while this tragedy touches me on the most personal level, it is gratifying that the people in Liberal and Seward County Community College pay tribute on that day. 

The college has often set up a special lunch and gathered the community to commemorate and honor not only those who have lost their lives but those who were first to help out – the police, fireman and EMTs – the first responders. How they have given their lives without hesitation to help others – their unselfishness. This year, Patriot Day falls on the weekend, and we will not be on campus. Even so, we should all honor and respect the memories of those we lost and the heroism of those who served as rescuers and responders.

September 11, 2001 – never forget. 

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