A decade ago I was a college student. I was in my last semester, about to graduate and trying to figure out what was next in my life. I was twenty-two. I was busy trying to get to classes on time, trying to get all my assignments finished, and pushing myself to study for exams. I wasn’t sleeping much (such is the life of a busy college student), I was working a part-time job in order to save up for a home of my own, and I still lived with my parents. I was doing my best to get through each day while trying to keep my head above water. I didn’t know that a day was coming that would change everything.
I remember it all as if it were yesterday, but 10 years ago was a Tuesday much like any other day. A beautiful September morning that indicated that Fall was right around the corner. The air was crisp and cool, the sky a deep blue, and the sun was shining. Nothing out of the ordinary… just a gorgeous day in the South.
At that time, I had a business management class on Tuesday mornings and I recall leaving that class right before 10:00 a.m. on that particular day to find the lobby of the business school full of students watching a small 19-inch television mounted high in the left corner of the space. This was unusual because rarely were there even a couple of students waiting around in that lobby.
Before I could even start to wonder what was going on, I heard a collective gasp from the room and I turned to watch the image of the first tower falling. I had to catch up, I had been in class and no one had interrupted to share the news. I hurried over to the library where there were more televisions set up with more students gathered around each one. As I arrived, I heard of another plane crash in Pennsylvania. Still trying to figure out what was going on, I joined a circle of students and started to listen as they described the horrific acts of the day.
They began to tell me about the two planes that hit each of the World Trade Center towers and the one that hit the Pentagon. They were talking about the poor individuals trapped above where the buildings were hit and that they had watched in terror as some had chosen to jump to their deaths. The sights on the television were indescribable. New York City was a warzone, the Pentagon broken.
As it all started sinking in, we all paused as the second tower, then weakened from the fire, collapsed as well. At that moment I was heartbroken for our country, for the lives that had been lost, for the lives that would be forever changed by this event. I realized that the world I lived in would never again be the same. It was the morning of September 11, 2001.
In the days and weeks that followed, I was glued to the television. The search, rescue and recovery was not as successful as hoped. The interviews of people who had been in a tower, lost a loved one, or were helping at the attack sites echoed in my mind. I cannot describe the realm of emotions I experienced.
But all of a sudden flags were everywhere, strangers shook hands and were genuinely concerned for each other. The country seemed to unify, we seemed to be collectively mourning and grieving for those lost. Our appreciation for life and those who give their all to fight for it seemed to elevate. It appeared we were a grateful nation and that we were all ready to do whatever was necessary to help out our neighbor or to bring justice to the people responsible. I was proud to be an American.
I will never forget that day, I will never forget the stories I heard or the sadness I felt.
Now, a decade later, I still find myself emotional over the loss experienced on that tragic day. I still think about all those who lost their lives or lost loved ones. I still appreciate all those emergency responders, the policemen and women, the firefighters, the port authority, the everyday heroes that were brave and courageous in the face of terror. I still am thankful to live in this great country. I still feel pride to be an American.
September 11, 2011 marks a time for Americans to reflect on what’s been lost, to honor the dedication of those who preserve our freedoms, to thank our God for his many blessings and be grateful for them, and to renew our hope, optimism and patriotism for this country. We are a troubled nation and we need to do these things now more than ever. I pray that through rememberance we can reinvigorate our American spirit. May God bless and protect this nation and all those who defend it, love it, serve it, and call it home.
“The future does not belong to the faint-hearted, it belongs to the brave.” –President Ronald Reagan