As the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have drawn near, I've seen people updating their Facebook profile photos to feature images of eagles, American flags, and the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.
I've always shied away from that. For me, the images of Sept. 11 aren't about eagles or flags or buildings. Faces always come to mind.
There is the picture of a firefighter climbing the stairs in one of the towers, wide-eyed and determined. There were photos of the terrified people on the ground, running for their lives as the towers fell. There were survivors, coated in dust. There were the battered-but-not-broken faces of working frantically in the rubble to find someone to save. There were the grief-marked faces of family and friends, hoping against hope then giving in to the heartbreak of their loss.
As someone who grew up in what is now a bedroom community for the New York metropolitan area, the faces of the victims and their loved ones looked like people whose paths crossed mine over the years, who went to the same schools as I did, who played in the same parks as I did, whose mom was in PTO with my mom.
They were people who could have shopped at , sat next to you at an football game, been in line ahead of you at , and you likely wouldn't have thought anything of it. They were just like you and me.
Sean Schielke was from my hometown and just a couple of years younger than my kid brother. I worked with mom one summer at Voices, the local weekly, while I was in college, and saw her face glow with pride and joy whenever Evan or his brother, Earl, would drop in. husband ran the student center at my college.
A dear friend from high school lost her boyfriend, the love of her life, that day. Other friends who live and work in New York lost friends and colleagues. My friend Marc, a magazine editor in New York, spent several days providing support to rescue and recovery workers at Ground Zero in the days after the attacks.
While there are lists tallying the dead, the injured, the financial cost, how does one measure the full toll of that day? There is no way to count weddings that never took place, children that were never conceived, memories that were never made.
That personal, human stuff is what I think of when I think of that day. I will not change my profile picture and I will not post an all-caps status update demanding that my friends post the Pledge of Allegiance. I will instead focus my thoughts on the faces of those who were lost, those who survived, and those who suffered loss. They will be on my mind and in my heart at Sunday's at the old police station on Detroit Road.
Even if you didn't know someone injured or killed in the attacks, the day still touched you. Maybe you gave blood. Or went back to church for the first time in years. Or decided to stop going. Or know someone who decided to join the military. Or have a family member who has served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Or you have reached out to volunteer in some way. The impact of Sept. 11, 2001, is still being made and felt.
Across the country, this Patch site and hundreds of others have captured the faces, stories, memorials, ceremonies and the emotions of that day and its aftermath. Click here to see how your neighbors around the country mark the day.