The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
My wife and I boarded a plane bound for Washington early on the morning of Sept. 11 after spending a long weekend in Florida. Little did I know that hundreds of my fellow Americans were doing the same, but they would never land safely back on the ground.
When our wheels touched down at Reagan National that morning, the first plane had struck the World Trade Center in New York. As we deplaned and went to catch a cab to the office on Capitol Hill, the second plane struck the second tower.
Capitol Hill was buzzing with the news when we arrived. Soon, I learned of what had happened in New York, and like so many of us watched the television in disbelief.
Not long after arriving at my office just across the street from the Capitol, there were reports of an explosion at the Pentagon which turned out to be terrorists flying American Airlines Flight #77 into the building. My wife looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “they are coming here next.”
As we evacuated our office, the beautiful blue sky was soon filled with the sounds of fighter jets that had been scrambled to DC as well as black smoke billowing from the Pentagon.
When we learned later that United Airlines Flight #93 had gone down in Pennsylvania, we had no doubt that it was en route back to the Washington area. I cannot help but think that those passengers may have saved my life.
A few hours later, we caught a ride with a friend back across the Potomac to our condo in Pentagon City. The next morning, a thin layer of soot covered my car and the smell of smoke still lingered in the air. It was a chilling reminder of what had happened and the loss so many families were feeling just 24 hours after starting their Tuesday like normal.
The hill beside our building became a makeshift memorial, as people would gather each evening to look down on the Pentagon and the huge American flag draped near the devastation that took place there. People would gather, watch, cry and pray.
Thirteen years ago we were attacked because we were Americans. In the attacks, 2,977 died and thousands more were injured. In response, we saw America rally in remarkable ways as a nation.
When we visit the Pentagon Memorial or when I drive by the piece of steel from ground zero at Arlington County Fire Station 5, I remember. I do not know how we will commemorate Sept. 11 50 years from now, but I know it will still be worth remembering.
Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.