The pictures. We watched it all unfold. As a professor who studies communication, I wondered who set this up. The first images of Tower I in flames was frightening, but we all wondered if the pilot had a heart attack or the plane had a mechanical malfunction. A tragedy to be sure, but it had to be an accident. We knew instantly that it was not 20 minutes or so later. The masterminds behind this made sure that the cameras were all rolling when the second plane crashed into Tower II. It’s one thing to hear about an attack but another to witness it. That day, we all bore witness.
The images. What counters those horrific images? All the good ones: President Bush standing at ground zero with bullhorn in hand telling the exhausted first responders that America can hear them and that soon those who did this will hear from all of us; students, faculty, staff gathered at the flagpole at SMU, joining hands, singing, praying; churches, mosques, synagogues, and other houses of worship filling their pews; candlelight vigils; First Responders showing us what real heroes do daily; stories of every day Americans who stopped another plane from hitting our Capital as they sacrificed their own lives; people who started looking each other in the eye and offering a hug because it just felt right.
We became a united country again on that day. I doubt that the so-called masterminds ever thought that would be our resolve. I hope 9/11 made us kinder, more aware of how we need each other, and more thankful for the blessings of this nation. We can IF we choose to replace the pictures of terror with the images of promise.