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Commentary: The Day the World Changed

By Lisa Johnson Regan

Buffalo, NY – Where were you the day the world stopped? Where you at work? Driving in your car? At the bank? In bed still waking up?

It's hard to believe that it's been a year since we were all going about our business at 8:45am Tuesday, September 11th, 2001. About 10 minutes later our world changed forever.

I remember where I was and exactly what I was doing.

Like millions of other people, I was driving to work listening to Howard Stern.

I was looking for a parking spot when the story first broke on the air. I parked my truck and just listened because I thought it was a radio gag. A plane hit the World Trade Center? I remember initially thinking that it wasn't really one of Howard's greatest bits.

Less than a minute later, I had the realization that it probably wasn't a joke and my thoughts turned to it being an accident - a horrible tragic accident. My analytical brain ran through the probability of something like that happening - one in a million? One in a hundred million? What could have happened to the plane that the pilot was forced to hit a building?

The second plane hit the other tower. I didn't know what to do or think. Two planes? An accident?

I ran from the parking lot into the building. Out of breath and panting, I told the first two people I saw what I had heard on the radio. I'll never forget their looks of disbelief. They looked at me as if I had three heads. I sprinted to my office and turned on the radio - the local stations had picked up the story and were reporting live.

The rest of the day unfolded in slow motion and we all know how it ended.

No one will ever forget the devastation of that day. But people seem to be forgetting what emotions the weeks following the attack brought.

For a few months at the end of 2001, people were extra nice to each other. Differences were set aside and we were all Americans intent on finding the men who committed these mass murders.

So where is that caring and compassionate society of October 2001? And where has the rage against terrorism gone? The push for justice? Are we all just tired? Exhausted from the emotional drain of chasing a hidden enemy?

I don't see Congress or the President acting with the same determination they were last October and November. Instead, the focus is on Iraq and Saddam, Israel and the Palestinians, Enron and World Com, the abductions of children, the Catholic Church, the economy.

While it's been refreshing to hear other news, albeit not-so-good news, this summer, and realize that the universe does not revolve around the United States, it's a bittersweet reminder of the work that still needs to be done both domestically and internationally.

These other subjects are more concrete - reporters can investigate - put names and faces together - and most important - make some newsworthy progress. It's much easier to report on Iraq's weapons inspections, the latest suicide bomber, the newest corporate executive or priest with charges pending, the fed funds rate and the stock market.

And maybe it's better for our mental health as well. As depressing as these other issues can be - at least we feel like we're making progress when another corporation restates prior years' earnings or a young child is returned home.

But that should be all the more reason to focus on the fight for justice for those horrible crimes. Time marches on and heals all wounds but we're not ready - we need a resolution. And the grim reality is that it may be years before the appropriate people are put on trial.

Maybe the outcome isn't quite as we'd hoped one year later.

But I hope I always remember that day. It's important for us all to remember the pain because the nightmare will continue for the family and friends of the victims of September 11th and their losses are forever.

I used to be astonished by people who could tell you the exact thing they were doing when they heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor or the assassinations of JFK or Martin Luther King Jr.

I understand now. Thinking of that day and the emotions it renders still brings me to tears. I hope it always will.

Do you remember?

Listener Commentator Lisa Johnson Regan lives in Akron.