Twenty years ago today in Chattanooga, on Sept. 10, 2001, the day before the world changed here and across our country, the public already was mourning.
It was the day Hamilton County Sheriff's Deputy Donald Bond, shot to death while on duty four days earlier, would be laid to rest at the Chattanooga National Cemetery.
"It's a sad thing we have to be here," Tri-Community Fire Department member Alec Long said at a candlelight vigil the night before the burial. "When I went to bed Thursday night, I was safe because we have people like Don Bond protecting us."
The next day, Sept. 11, and the days following, the country would be reminded over and over just how brave, dedicated and hearty its first responders were.
But elsewhere on a partly cloudy Sept. 10, with temperatures almost identical to what they would be 20 years later, it was business as usual.
* A first-year Chattanooga mayor was expected to have his budget — including a 48-cent property tax hike — passed on second and third readings. Sound familiar? Twenty years ago, the mayor was Bob Corker, who would go on to serve two terms in the United States Senate. The current mayor, who just had his budget — including a 40-cent property tax increase — passed on first reading, is Tim Kelly.
* U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Chattanooga, decided to delay the planned consideration of a bill making Moccasin Bend a national park in hopes of finding more bipartisan support in Congress. The 768-acre area never became a national park, but in 2003 the Moccasin Bend National Archeological District was tabbed a unit of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.
* The Tennessee Valley Authority was preparing to head to court to challenge a recent Environmental Protection Agency ruling, which could have forced a $3 billion upgrade at nine TVA coal plants, including the Colbert Fossil Plant in Tuscumbia, Ala. Late last month, TVA imploded the Colbert plant, the fifth coal-generation plant it has jettisoned since 2017.
* Both the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press editorial pages were praising the $25 million gift by businessman-philanthropist Jack Lupton to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the largest cash contribution to a public college or university at the time in the state's history.
* And speaking of business as usual, traffic was to be restricted to one lane on Interstate 75 from the Georgia state line to the I-75-I-24 interchange for paving. Twenty years later, a major revamping at the same interchange is slowly concluding its work.
On a quiet day in Chattanooga, a day before events stood the country on its head, Doug Wood, Robin Stone and Alexis Antes were to perform at Chattanooga State Technical Community College, author Sharyn McCrumb was to present a lecture and reading at Cleveland State Community College and a local church singles group was prepared to preview "Making Friends and/or Lovers."
A newspaper movie ad — remember those? — advertised "Rock Star," which the internet tells us was a "musical comedy-drama film" starring Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston. The movie, we read, was considered a box office bomb.
One day before pirated jets struck the World Trade Center in New York City, before another jet smashed into the Pentagon outside of Washington, D.C., and before a fourth suicide jet crash was thwarted by brave passengers at Shanksville, Pa., we truly didn't know what we didn't know.
We could say good-bye to Gramma at the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport gate, and she could board her plane without her suitcase being scanned, without having to remove all her jewelry and without having to take off her shoes.
We didn't look at our neighbors — especially those who didn't look like us — with so much suspicion.
We didn't know we would be adding Sept. 11, or 9/11, to Dec. 7 or Nov. 22, two dates various generations of Americans had already secured in their memory banks for the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor that drew the U.S. into World War II and the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, respectively.
We didn't know we'd see a resurgence in faith, in patriotism and in the importance of family after Sept. 11, but then watch an erosion of all three in the 20 years since.
Unfortunately, we can't go back. The world will never return to the way it was on Sept. 10, 2001.
We have to go forward. Since we do, let us do so with the knowledge that though the world is different, it is also better in many ways. And the values that make a good person, a good family and a good country will remain with us until we — we — choose to give them up.