Eight years ago today I was preparing to leave home around 8:45am to teach a class at my kids' high school when my wife called to me.
"Randy! You have to see this!"
With those words my life, and the life of my country, changed forever.
I remember falling into a chair, disbelief at what I was seeing as one of the Twin Towers smoldered from where the plane had flown into it. Within thirty minutes I watched in horror, "Live!", as the second plane hit.
A field in Pennsylvania. The Pentagon. The World Trade Center.
I wondered what, or who, was next.
We lived on the Space Coast of Florida, within throwing distance of Kennedy Space Center and, more ominously, Patrick Air Force Base.
I flipped over to the local news and saw personnel at KSC quickly rolling the Space Shuttle into the Final Assembly Building. Airmen at Patrick were taking off, already at DEFCON 3, patrolling the East Coast. MPs were blocking off A1A, the "beach road", two miles south and north of Patrick.
We'd never be able to drive unhindered from Melbourne to Cocoa Beach again. From that time on every vehicle would be stopped and examined before being allowed to pass.
Later that day I watched as it was revealed that at least two of the terrorists had lived within miles of my in-laws, in Vero Beach. The pictures showed the house, and there in the driveway sat a Ford Expedition. An Expedition that my dealership in Palm Bay had sold a few months before.
I remembered the men, five of them, as they came into the dealership on a Sunday afternoon and, without any questions or negotiating, purchased the vehicle. They had called earlier that day to make sure we had what they wanted. I was the manager that Sunday and recalled they had paid cash for the truck. I had them sign a form that we had to submit to the IRS when that much cash was involved. They didn't seem to care.
One of them called back as we were closing and asked to speak to me, yelling that he didn't get any floor mats when he bought the Expedition.
I informed him that it didn't come with mats, and he replied that he was going to come back up there and drive the truck through the front door. I asked him how soon he could be there. I'd wait for him. He cursed at me in some language I had never heard, slammed the phone down and never showed up.
On September 11, 2001, I wished he had.
I'll never forget. Every time someone mentions New York, I remember. Each time I go to the airport, I remember. When I see a soldier, I remember.
The flag outside our store is at half-staff today in honor of those who lost their lives, and a country whose soul was bruised eight years ago.
Two Saturdays back, the day of Ted Kennedy's funeral, a woman from Atlanta stopped by to inform us that the President had requested flags be flown at half-staff in honor of the Senator.
We left it up.
It seems more fitting to fly it that way today. I remember 9/11 every time I see our nation's flag.
I'll never forget where I was on September 11, 2001. In my opinion, no one should.
We should never forget. Never.