The Day Everything Changed

I knew it was coming, of course: the fifth anniversary of September 11. Still, I was not prepared.

On Saturday night, I attended an evening of remembrance for the brother of one of my closest friends. His name was Bart Ruggiere. He was 32 years old and had recently landed a job with Cantor Fitzgerald at the World Trade Center. A handsome newlywed, he and his lovely wife Claudia were married months before at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York.

But when I walked into the party — a fundraiser for two charities that raise money in Bart's name — my mind was, frankly, somewhere else.

Entering the room, filled with people and surrounded by an ongoing slide show of smiling pictures of Bart, it all came back. The people taken that day, were innocent. They vanished in the space of hours — ripped from the lives of all the people who loved them and counted on them being around.

Everybody seemed happy — but there was pain. Red-rimmed eyes, knowing looks exchanged. Bart's parents, his wife, his sister, his brothers. For them, September 11 was yesterday. They are not over it. They never will be.

Today, as I drove to work and listened to the replays of that morning, it shook me to my core. Again. I could not hold back my tears.

That day five years ago, I did not cry. I buried myself in work. On about the third day, I took what felt like my first deep breath. I cried then, for all the families in my town who lost a husband, a dad, a mom, a son, a brother. For the cars that still were not picked up at the train station. For my own feelings of bewilderment.

Still, as I drove to work, I was heartened by the fact that I was not alone. Everybody was driving to work. They were taking trains and buses and filling the bridges and tunnels and pouring into the city, just as they did five years ago and nearly every day since.

Tonight we will gather at a memorial. Tonight we will make sure our children remember. Tomorrow and the day after that, we will stay firm in our resolve to protect our country, our people and our way of life. That is what this is all about.

America changed that day in many ways, but in many ways it changed for the better. We will overcome. We will persevere. We will prosper. We will be American.

God bless,

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