It was just after 6 a.m. in Los Angeles. “Daddy, wake up. Watch the TV.”

Like so many others, this is how I began my day on September 11, 2001. My eight year-old standing there, pointing to the television, before my wife ran into the bedroom. “Two planes hit the World Trade Center! They think it’s terrorists.”

All morning I was glued to that television set. Another plane had struck the Pentagon. And another had crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. My heart sank as I watched the South Tower buckle and collapse. And again when the North Tower fell.

I had to get out of the house. Everywhere I went the attacks were being replayed over and over. People were in shock, still trying to go about their business, but it was impossible. I called anyone and everyone I knew in New York to make sure they were alright. It took hours as the phone lines were jammed. Thankfully, everyone was safe. But they were all deeply affected and watching, some from across the river, as the smoke and dust blackened that beautiful blue sky.

Driving in my car, the radio kept the bad news coming. Building 7 had come down. Early reports estimated 10,000 people may have been killed. Mayor Rudy Giuliani kept us informed. He was a reassuring presence throughout a day we were all seeking strength. And from the oval office that night, President Bush assured us justice would be served. That we, as a nation, would pull through. We all felt so vulnerable.

In the days that followed, we watched as first-responders poured in from all over the country to lend their fellow firefighters and police officers a hand. Thousands lined up around the nation to give blood, though unfortunately, very little was needed. At the Trade center there were hardly any survivors. But people just needed to know that there was something they could do to help, to pitch in, to serve.

With Friday, September 14th set aside as the National Day of Prayer for our nation, I took my family to our Catholic church. Like places of worship across the country, it was filled to capacity. Every seat was taken so my family stood along the wall. I will never forget what Father Bill first said. “This…has been a tough week.” I do not recall every word after that. All I remember is the feeling he gave me. We would make it through. Our nation faced difficult times before and we would find it within us to survive this as well. The last thing we did at that service was sing ‘God Bless America’. With tears rolling down my face, I was choking on the words. But I wanted to remain strong for my kids who were still very young at the time. So, I wiped those tears and kept on. We all did. Click here to read more.

Gary Sinise is an actor whose work includes roles in “Forrest Gump,” “Apollo 13,” and as a star and producer of “CSI: NY.” The Gary Sinise Foundation is dedicated to serving the Nation by honoring our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need. 

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