It started as a quiet morning in September. It quickly became a nightmare.
The horrors of September 11, 2001 are burned into the memories of Americans. As the nation approaches the fifteenth anniversary of the atrocity, communities across the United States pause to remember the lives lost. In addition to the losses shared by the entire nation, six Texans also lost their lives.
When the World Trade Center was dedicated in 1973, it was a marvel of modern architecture. The two main buildings, referred to simply 1 World Trade Center and 2 World Trade Center, stood at 1,368 and 1,362 feet, respectively, and were the tallest buildings in the world. It redefined the skyline of New York City and attracted attention from across the globe. It also became the target of threats in the years before that terrible day.
The Pentagon, located just outside Washington, DC, and the heart of America’s defense command since 1943, was also targeted and struck.
Jimmy Nevill Storey, of Katy, born in 1943, had been an executive visiting his company’s office at the World Trade Center that morning. He was described as a doting father and grandfather. He loved reading mystery novels and history books. Michael Tinley was a 56-year-old Dallasite, also an executive. Those who knew him recalled how friendly he always was. Neither made it out of the building.
Barbara Olson was a Houston native born in 1955 and a graduate of S. P. Waltrip High School. She had attended the University of St. Thomas in Houston and received a law degree from Yeshiva University in New York. She had become a nationally known attorney and TV commentator before her death. She was on board American Airlines Flight 77 as it was crashed into the Pentagon.
Daniel Martin Caballero was born in Houston in 1980. As a youth, he would often dismantle his electronic toys, and once in the navy he became an Electronics Technician Third Class. Described as dedicated, he had worked at the Pentagon for two years, mostly arranging the equipment for videoconferences. Caballero had planned to return to Texas to visit family that following weekend but was killed when American Airlines Flight 77 was flown into the Pentagon by terrorist hijackers.
Lt. Col. Karen Wagner, born in 1961, had spent her life in the army caring for others as part of the medical corps. Wagner grew up in a military family in San Antonio. In her position at the Pentagon, she helped organize where medical personnel would be stationed.
Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas was born in Bloomington, Ind., in 1963. She was raised in Houston and graduated from Stratford High School in Houston before attending the University of Texas. Grandcolas had taken a number of jobs before becoming a marketing expert for Good Housekeeping and was working on a self-help book for women. In addition, she was three months pregnant with her first child. She was devoted to many charitable causes, trying to help others. Grandcolas was returning from her grandmother’s funeral when she boarded United Airlines Flight 93. She worked with other passengers in an attempt to retake the airliner, taking time to call her husband on the ground. Passengers were able to retake the plane just as it was crashed into a quiet field in Pennsylvania. Since her passing, Grandcolas’ family has established a scholarship in her honor at Stratford High School and a foundation to provide money for different charities.
The memories of the nation of that terrible day are filled with the reminders of fear but also of the courage that kept more lives from being lost. Memorials across the nation give testimony to not only what was lost but to the unbreakable spirit of a heartbroken America. They also remind us of a strength that comes as grief transforms itself to rebuilding, a strength that has guided America through an often difficult history.
That strength is called hope.
Dr. Ken Bridges is a Texas native, writer and history professor. His columns appear in 57 newspapers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.