NEW YORK - As I listened to "Taps" being played in the closing moments of Sunday's 9/11 ceremony, I thought of the families returning home, resuming their lives without that special loved one.
The terrorist attacks birthed a new "normal" in their lives and in all of our lives. It forever changed this country and things will never be the same.
Covering the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks from Ground Zero was an emotional experience for me. When we drove by it on Thursday night, I got a chill as I looked at an empty space once occupied by the Twin Towers.
Then, I had a flashback of the planes crashing into the towers and the chaos that followed. The dust and debris painting the faces of people running through the streets stricken with fear.
On Friday, I visited the New York City Memorial Field, where some 3,000 white flags uniformly displayed on the field bear a banner that reads "One Flag-One Hope." Each flag represented a person who died in the attacks on America 10 years ago. It was chilling. It was moving. So many feelings came rushing in at once. Evil destroyed all of the lives I saw right in front of me.
This memorial made all of the statistics of 9/11 so real. I couldn't help but feel sad and empathetic towards those who lost their loved ones during the tragedy a decade ago.
On Saturday we traveled to Queens to visit a fire station that was helped by the people of Akron after the attacks. The men welcomed us with open arms and were very open with their thoughts about the tragic events that claimed two of their men that day, though you could tell it was still hard subject for many reasons.
As a reporter, I perfected my skills as a good listener because some of the interviews provided these men with the opportunity to vent. So, I listened intently. My ears and heart just went out to them as they took pauses in their speech attempting to fight back the tears.
That evening, I was honored to spend some time with the Ryook family of Westlake who lost their daughter Christina on 9/11. This family had so much love to share that I felt like I was a friend or relative of Christina's after being in their presence for only minutes.
Christina's father still sheds tears for his daughter. He flashed a smile as we talked about the importance of having his family and friends with him in New York. But you could hear the emotion in his voice. Being a daddy's girl myself, I tried to imagine if someone were interviewing my father about my death and how he would handle it.
Mr. Ryook was so polite and gracious. He stood strong even though he was broken inside. I looked at a scrapbook filled with pictures of Christina's life and it provided me a glimpse at the type of woman she was: vibrant, warm and full of life.
The warmth from this family towards me and my photographer, Gary Abrahamsen, really touched me. Not once did we feel like we were intruding on their personal space. They welcomed us and thanked us for taking the time to tell their story.
Then it was Sunday, the 10th anniversary of a day that forever changed the way people live and added another piece to history.
It was 6:30 a.m. as we began walking to the World Financial Trade Center. After an hour, we arrived and I knew I would be on the 10th floor deck of this building for the next 17 hours. Security was intense with Secret Service, NYPD and New York State troopers covering the streets. Several hundred media outlets from all across the country and the world were also there. It was quite a sight to see.
As the ceremony began, I watched the families of the victims crowd around the memorial waiting to hear the name of their loved one called. When the bells rang at the exact time the planes hit, 8:46 a.m., I got a chill.
Overall, covering the 10th anniversary of 9/11 from Ground Zero has been an experience I will never forget. I've taken with me new faces and stories that I'll be able to tell another decade down the road.
I’ll never forget how I felt seeing the Freedom Tower lit up in red, white and blue or the beautiful sunken pools with waterfalls that served as the footprints of the Twin Towers. It makes the terrorist attacks and all the words I've spoken about Ground Zero a reality.
But one thing is for sure --this terrible tragedy has united the American people and made us stronger than we were before 9/11. There's a lot of good in this country and I feel like I tapped into some of it this weekend.
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More Sept. 11 News
WEWS NewsChannel5 aired a special for the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 Friday night with reporters located in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pa. Rewatch the NewsChannel5 special.
The rusted metal aircraft part believed to be from one of the hijacked jetliners that slammed into the World Trade Center in the Sept. 11 attacks came from a wing, not landing gear, police said Monday.