“Where were you when the world stopped turning, that September day?” – Alan JacksonWe all have a story from that fateful September day ten years ago. Stories of where we were when we first heard about the attacks on 9/11. Those moments and memories will be burned into our memories…forever. It was the day when our world changed. Nothing would again be the same.
Ten years ago I was 22, newly married, and heading to my first job teaching a classroom full of innocent elementary school students. Having just been married the month before, the world was still perfect and life was simple. The morning of the attacks, I was late for work and got stuck in traffic about a half mile from my school. There were multiple car accidents at the intersection and it just seemed odd that there would be so many separate wrecks. As I sat listening to the radio waiting for the traffic to clear, I heard of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. I remember thinking, “What an awful accident. How could a plane run into a building that tall?” It just didn’t seem right. And then the reporter announced that a second plane had hit – it was obvious this was no accident. I later found out that the car accidents at that intersection had occurred as others heard about the attacks on their radios too. It’s amazing the ripple effect these senseless acts had, all the way across the country. When I finally made it to school, all of the classes were in the auditorium for the weekly assembly and no one had heard yet. I hate that I was the one to first notify the school of what had happened…a school full of innocent 5-10 year old children, now ripped out of that innocence into the reality that would follow. The days that followed in our school, as in countless others across the nation, were filled with fearful and inquisitive children. There was no way to shield them from the tragedy and their eyes were opened wide to the pain that humans could inflict upon each other. All of our eyes were…and none of us understood.
But my story is just one of millions. And it is not one of great personal tragedy or loss, as so many from that day are. My story is one that so many of us share, of enjoying life and the simple freedoms that we are provided in this country and the sense of violation and sadness that we all felt afterwards. I remember being angry that this happened. Why would anyone want to hurt innocent people? And I also remember the feeling of pride that resulted from this tragedy. Strangers jumped at the chance to help their fellow countrymen in need, risking their own lives in the process. Americans across the country donated blood, money, and whatever supplies were needed. Countless men and women volunteered to join the fight for our country. They willingly walked into battle, with many citing 9/11 as one of their main reasons, my husband being one of them. We, as Americans, rose to the occasion and showed what its citizens are made of. It was a time when this country stood unified, despite the differences of politics, race or religion.
It’s been ten years since the attacks on 9/11 and so much has changed in that time - stricter security measures everywhere you turn, wars that have claimed the lives of so many of our men and women, new government regulations designed to keep us safe to name a few. It’s a different world we live in now. My children were born into this “new” world, never knowing a time when this country wasn’t at war. It is common for them to hear of a friend’s dad, or their own, going off to “fight”. They have learned what it means to be without their father for birthdays and holidays, and to appreciate their times together. But they have also grown up with a strong sense of pride and loyalty. They are proud to be Americans. They know what freedom means. They understand the sacrifices that are necessary to have that freedom. And they are willing to make those sacrifices.
Today, on the ten year anniversary of one of the greatest assaults against our country, we all need to stand together with that same American pride we felt back then. We need to remember those who lost their lives that day and their families and friends who continue to ache for their loved ones. We need to remember the selfless heroes who went in despite their own safety to help others in need. And we need to remember the brave men and women who have fought, and continue to fight, at home and on foreign soil to ensure the freedoms we enjoy.
WE WILL NEVER FORGET…
….And we will be FOREVER grateful.