Moved by 9/11, some Americans changed their lives
At 8:46 a.m. silence again fell on ground zero, with only church bells pealing in the distance. Family members stood holding hands as well as photos of lost loved ones - some with tears rolling down their cheeks, others with heads bowed.Skip to next paragraph
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The sun was bright, the sky a deep blue, and the air fresh with a breeze off the Hudson just as it was four years ago when terrorists slammed two planes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, killing 2,749.
Across the United States Sunday, Americans paused to remember those who died in New York, Washington, and Shanksville, Pa. Some prayed in churches and synagogues, some as they knelt toward Mecca. Each observance reflected on the nation's spirit of determination and resilience.
Almost every American life was touched by the tragedy in some way. Jennifer Kessler, a dog walker in downtown New York, says she's "more cautious now," conscious of things like unattended packages. David Fleischer, who from his balcony watched the towers burn, still jumps occasionally when he hears a plane overhead. Stagehand Ellen Walton left New York altogether to pursue her passion for dance.
For others, the moment propelled them into service in ways they never could have anticipated on Sept. 10, 2001. Following are the stories of three individuals who changed courses dramatically after 9/11.
Four years ago, Randy Rizor was a successful anesthesiologist taking his son on a college tour. After the attacks they ended up stranded in Hanover, N.H.
After waiting five days for flight restrictions to be lifted, they finally decided to rent a car to return home to Georgia. The 18-hour trip took them down Interstate 95 and across the George Washington Bridge, from which they could see the smoke still rising from the World Trade Center site. They also went through Washington, where people were holding candlelight vigils.
As they wound south, Dr. Rizor says he had a lot of time to reflect. "At the time I was 49 years old, and I'd been able to accomplish everything that I wanted, every dream I ever had," he says.
He thought the attacks would be "a call to action" but that young people would have to assume the greatest burden. He found this a particular injustice, since young people have "the whole promise of America ahead of them," but no time yet to realize it.
He'd been raised during the Vietnam era and had never served because of student deferments. "I felt I had a particular debt to repay," he says. "By the time I got home, I had pretty much made up my mind that I would enlist. I talked to my wife about it and called the recruiter the next day."
Granted, he was not exactly the prime age for picking up a rifle. But he felt blessed that he was a physician: He knew the Army would take him if he could pass the physical. It took a year, but he got his commission in September 2002. Major Rizor was called to active duty at a military hospital in Kosovo in 2004. He is now home in Georgia, waiting to be called again.
Sept. 11 "transformed thought, motivated service, and ultimately adds to the strengths of this country," he says. "It also points out the fact that we're different from the rest of the world in that we have so many gifts. And as a result, we have a greater responsibility toward peace in the world."
On the morning of the attacks, Ronald Bruder was in midtown Manhattan. An entrepreneurial tycoon with an elegantly appointed office on Madison Avenue, he'd made a fortune in real estate, oil, and pharmaceuticals. His daughter was working a few blocks from the World Trade Center. When he heard about the attacks and the crumbling of the towers, he was worried she may have rushed in to try to help. It was evening before he learned she was safe.
"It traumatized her quite a bit, and it traumatized me," he says "It was all very up close and personal."