The day America will never forget
That morning started so stunningly beautiful -- sun sparkling in the bright blue sky, the air so fresh and clean, a picture-perfect September day.
We remember the weather so clearly because of the contrasting horror that was soon to come.
We remember where we were, what we were doing that morning when we heard that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City.
Many first thought it must be a small, wayward plane, just a sad, unfortunate miscalculation.
But then we saw the image -- a jet hurtling to the tower with unmistakable intent.
And then came the second jet into the other tower -- intentionally.
And within just a little over an hour -- in New York City, at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and in a Pennsylvania field -- nearly 3,000 people perished, and our sense of reality would never be the same.
Sept. 11 would become one of those events that shifts the whole country's psyche -- such as Dec. 7, 1941, and Nov. 22, 1963.
Life gets divided, before and after.
Before the U.S. was attacked at Pearl Harbor, and after.
Before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and after.
In retrospect, it seems the time before such cataclysmic events was innocent, and now we could never go back there.
We cannot forget the surreal images of jagged portions of once-tall skyscrapers jutting into air heavy with dust.
The moments of Sept. 11 are so indelibly etched in our collective consciousness that it is hard to believe 10 years have passed.
As we approach the anniversary, we recall the poignancy of that day once again.
"While painting a mural for a lady in Southbury, her husband called and said to turn on the TV," said David K. Merrill Sr., of Southbury.
"We watched the tragedy unfold," Merrill remembers, "and had the feeling we were watching a sci-fi movie."
People moved from stunned to feeling the need to do something. Shortly thereafter, Merrill heard from Howard Lasher, of Newtown.
Lasher, a philanthropist, lost nine friends in the World Trade Center, and he asked Merrill to paint a mural in their memory on his property.
The result -- an American flag painted across nine maple trees on Lasher's property on Route 302 -- has become well-known and loved by so many passing by or attending annual observances there on 9/11.
Others responded to the spirit of 9/11 in myriad ways: Some constructed memorials, others made donations, some hugged their children tighter, others changed their lives.
During the coming week, and especially on Sunday, Sept. 11, thousands of residents of Greater Danbury will remember 9/11 and those who perished on that day.
Residents will attend memorial services, parades and wreath-layings.
Organizations will host exhibits, photo displays, concerts and coffeehouses.
Schools will hold events and talk about 9/11 in the classroom.
Two years ago, Sept. 11 was designated a National Day of Service and Remembrance, a day to pay homage to the sad past by looking to the future with hope.
"You can rekindle the remarkable spirit of unity and service that existed in our nation in the days following the attacks. By reviving this unity, we can honor the victims and pay tribute to the many that rose to service in response," wrote Lee Ielpi, president of the September 11th Families' Association.
His remarks are in a foreword to a book written by Danbury resident Wendy Stark Healy, who managed communications for Lutheran Disaster Response of New York at ground zero.
Ielpi's son, Jonathan, a New York City firefighter, was a first responder who died on 9/11 trying to save others.
"It would be such a shame if 20, 50 or 100 years from now, we only had images of death and destruction to define our knowledge of this history," Ielpi wrote.
"Instead, if we redefine this day as a day of compassion and outreach, we will shape what 9/11/01 means to future generations."
Contact Managing Editor Jacqueline Smith at email@example.com or 203-731-3369.