The Sound of Silence.

I had never heard anything so loud.

Standing in that dark night, I suddenly understood the sound of silence. It wasn’t the calm of a stolen afternoon. It wasn’t the cozy quiet of an evening alone. It wasn’t the airy rush in my ears as my shoes counted miles in the dark.

It was the sound of 3,000 voices being silenced.  

Ten years later, we are all remembering where we were when the world stopped turning. We were making breakfast and settling into the school day. We were in hospitals waiting for our first to be born, and sitting around polished mahogany tables planning product launches and negotiating takeovers. We were buckled in on runways and soaring above the ground that was shaking 30,000 feet below. We were on our bicycles and in our running shoes. We were walking down sidewalks and sitting on freeways. We were in newsrooms reporting on images beyond belief, and we were watching as bodies fell from the sky and darkness shrouded the city that never sleeps.

We were living. And then in one collective gasp, our voices went silent with theirs.  

Thousands of miles away, we were not among those who lost someone that day. I had yet to discover the searing pain of loss, but I imagined how those who lost loved ones that day felt as they watched the towers burn and fall. The frantic phone calls that went unanswered, the tears that began and would not stop, and the desperate search for hope that the ones they loved would emerge from the darkness.

But of all the voices stilled that day, I wondered most about those who stood behind the 343 firefighters and 72 police officers who died fighting for others’ lives that morning. Men and women who believed in something far greater than themselves. Men and women with families. Men and women, but for a difference of geography, who were like my husband. I woke him that morning, mere hours after he had come home exhausted from patrolling the streets in the dead of night. He was gone before I got home and I stood alone in the dark listening. Listening for what we had lost and for what we feared might come. Listening for him to come home.

Standing in the darkness I listened for sounds that were not there, waiting for the chill of despair and death that had settled in the air above us all.

But in place of the morning’s violent embrace, quiet warmth wrapped its soothing arms around me. In that dark night, from sea to shining sea we answered the call that came from a lonely Pennsylvania field, an American fortress and towering beacons of prosperity and promise. One by one, we vowed to stand strong for everything that had been lost and for the voices that went silent that day. With each unspoken vow to remember and to rebuild, a new spark emerged until the horizon was aflame with a new day and we emerged from the ashes. We are living again because we have vowed never to be silenced again.

Because their voices are alive within us all.

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