Last May I was driving north on I-75 through Florida on my way back to Tampa having spent the day in Naples speaking to the NJ Bankers Association annual convention (yes, they met in Florida).
 
I had never made this particular drive despite my many trips to the Sunshine State, yet over the course of my two day visit to the west coast of Florida; there was one nearby town I thought of frequently even though I had spent but one night there.  The city was Bradenton and the date was September 10, 2001.  
 
Looking at my map, it was a small detour to Bradenton and the hotel I had stayed in almost 10 years ago so I decided to pay a visit.  As I turned off Gulf of Mexico Drive into the Colony Beach Resort, I quickly noticed how little the property had changed minus some odd paint schemes and a few less visitors.  Looking around the property it was a vivid portal to a pre-9/11 mindset that had vanished less than 24 hours later.  Very few of us on this good earth were around on December 6, 1941.  I suspect many of the people who were feel the same way many of us do about September 10, 2001 – forever changed.  I recalled sitting outside that evening and smelling the warm salt scented air.
 
After a few minutes, I left the Colony Resort and headed to the elementary school that we had visited that September 11 morning.  I more than likely drove the same route as President Bush’s motorcade did on my way to Emma Booker Elementary School.  As I wound through the parking lot, I could almost hear the voice of one of my White House colleagues sitting behind me in the Staff Support car tell me a plane had just hit the World Trade Center.  I knew enough about commercial aviation to immediately be suspicious.  And when we slowed to a stop and jumped from our cars, the head of the White House Military Office intercepted me to say that Dr. Rice (who was National Security Advisor) needed to immediately talk to the president in the holding room on a secure phone. 
 
All alone this muggy May afternoon, except for a few workers, I again saw the spot where we greeted the school principal and several of her prize students.  All were fortunately unaware of the horror that was developing a couple of thousand miles away.  They’re all young ladies I thought – I wonder how their lives have changed?
 
Before me was the room where we huddled around the president—surprisingly just a handful of us.  “Get on the phone ASAP,” the President said as he hung up the phone with Dr. Rice.  It sounded as real in my memory as it did that long ago morning and surprisingly vivid years later.  But on that September morning we all wondered what that afternoon might bring especially as we saw the second plane impact the other tower.  At that instant, the contingency plans were put into place (yes, there is a plan for almost everything). 
 
I closed my eyes this time and wished it all away for a brief moment.  I walked back to my car and looked at the school one last time.  As I drove back to Tampa, I reflected on the entire day as I have done many, many time over the last nine years.