I will never forget the feeling… that state of shock that lingers for days, those images that seemed too cinematic to be real, the feeling of helplessness and fear - what’s next? -the understanding that over the span of less than three hours, our world, as we knew it, had been forever changed.
As coincidence would have it, I had stayed home from school that Tuesday morning feeling ill. My brother, in middle school at the time, had taken my symptoms as an opportunity to stay home, too. I remember hearing my mother’s gasps coming from the living room, where the TV was on full blast. As I walked in from my bedroom, still sleepy-eyed and groggy, I thought the “accident” seemed too unreal to have been an accident, and before I had an opportunity to gather what was truly happening, the words “attack,” “hijacked planes,” and “terrorism” made their way onto the screen. As the second plane struck the second tower, my mom and I hugged. She said, “I am so happy you’re here.” I couldn’t possibly imagine what it’d be like to be there, to have someone there, in that flaming debris, in midst of that terror… My friends and classmates were in second period, Honors Biology I, that morning; my best friend later called me from the classroom, where everyone was also watching the tragedy play out on live television.
My generation was marked by the horrific events of September 11, 2001, but we have not been defined - not by grief or by hatred or by loss, but rather by a determination to serve our country, to stand together, to always (always!) remember.
Since that day, countless numbers of young men and women have joined the armed forces. We have been fueled by a commitment to fight for freedom to the best of our availability. We have been the faces of a war that we don’t quite understand but that has lasted for nearly half of our young adult lives. And we will prevail as a stronger, more unified, hopefully more mature generation, marked by an understanding of good and evil, of life and loss, of patriotism and hope.
Though I had been living in the U.S. for less than 10 years at the time of the September 11 attacks, I had not felt as “American” as I did that day, when I looked at all of those flags being erected on people’s balconies and yards and when every time I have sung the Star Spangled Banner since.
"…And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
Today, as I get closer to celebrating my second decade as a resident of this country, as I think of all those servicemen/women whom I know and love, as I dream of one day having American children and grandchildren, and as I continue to pursue my parents’ American Dream, I know I will never forget that heart-wrenching September day. We will never forget.
How do you remember?