Sixteen years ago… I cannot believe it has been 16 years since 9/11.
I remember someone once told me that there will be certain days or events in my life that will stick in my head in odd ways. That years later, I would remember where I was, what I was doing, what I was wearing, and other aspects of the day in vivid detail. For me (and I am sure I am not alone), September 11, 2001 is one of those days.
My Safe World
I was an 11 year old newly minted 6th grader back in 2001. It was my first year in the middle school building and I started that year as any good little type-A, straight A student would… full of enthusiasm, excitement and anticipation.
I was young and oblivious to any turmoil in the world or real danger. I grew up in a very safe, midwest area where locking your house was an extreme/borderline paranoid action. My biggest fear growing up was either a house fire or a tornado.
A September Tuesday
On a clear September Tuesday, our school intercom crackled to life unexpectedly. It was our principal (enough reason to alarm even the best of students… “Who is in trouble?” “Is everyone ok?”). He calmly stated that there was a plane crash in New York City and asked all of our teachers (parochial Catholic school) to pause class for a brief prayer.
As we changed classes a few minutes later, the hallway was abuzz with comments. “A terrible accident?” “How could a plane hit a building?” “Was it a big plane or a small one?” Someone mentioned two planes… “Two?”
An Act of Terror
Lunchtime brought more clarity. Our principal came into the lunch room and asked everyone to be quiet. He made a second brief announcement, this time telling us the story behind our teachers’ panicked faces that morning. There were 4 plane crashes… two in New York, one in Washington D.C. and one in Pennsylvania. It was an act of terror.
I will never forget the rest of the day. I felt sick to my stomach and on the edge of tears throughout the next few hours of class. When I met my mom at the bus stop, I was shaking.
From there, we went to a friends’ house to watch the coverage of the attacks. After an hour or two of paralyzing images and reports, I went into our friends’ back yard, looked up at the sky and cried. Later that night, I curled up in my dad’s lap while we watched President Bush address the nation. I looked into my dad’s eyes (also welling with tears) and managed to stammer “Dad, I’m scared”.
As I think back to that day, 16 years ago, I cannot help but realize how lucky I was (and still am). There is no doubt that an attack on one’s home country is a horrendous, frightening event. But I was spared the worst of it. I did not watch black smoke billow up on the horizon or receive a phone call informing me that a family member, friend or acquaintance was dead or missing.
But September 11th changed me. It changed our country. Over the months following the terror attacks, our country came together in a way I had not seen before.
The terrorists did not attack “my country” or “your country”. They attacked our country. And we came together to help those in need, offering what we could. Time, money, blood donations, prayers and in some cases, lives, were given over the months and years following the attacks.
Sixteen Years Later…
Sixteen years later, I am the proud American woman I was becoming all those years ago. Our country is an incredible country full of diversity, opportunity and community.
But it is clear that, as Americans, we have much to improve on as well. There are so many people hurting in our country today for so many reasons. Natural disasters, personal tragedies, illness and disease, poor education, economic hardship, addiction, divisive politics, inequality, injustice and prejudice of all kinds affect our fellow Americans on a daily basis.
I could go on about the ups and downs of our country today, but I do not want to on a day like today. Rather, I would like to encourage the following actions today.
Let Us Help Others:
There are fellow Americans in need of our love, understanding, thoughts and prayers each and every day. Let’s remember to support our neighbors in the ways we can.
Let Us Be Thankful:
Let us be thankful today…
For those who have given their kindness and love to us throughout our lives.
For those who have shared their knowledge with us or taught us lessons along the way.
For the communities we are a part of and benefit from.
For those who have defended and protected us (personally, locally and nationally).
Let Us Count Our Blessings:
I know that I am incredibly blessed to be an American and to be able to live the way I live today. I intend to take time today to thank God for the blessings I have received and reflect on how I can use these blessings for good.
Let Us Remember:
Let us take time to remember that September day 16 years ago. Let us remember the lives cut short, the sacrifices made by so many heros and the families and friends who are reminded daily of their loved ones who are no longer among us. And let us remember how we are a beautiful, diverse and united country.
God bless you and God bless America.
Mrs. Adventure Rich