I remember seeing cars stop in the middle of the street on my way to school. People getting out of their cars to talk to neighbors about what they’d seen on the news. My tiny elementary school was quiet and dark, with kids crowded around small TV carts in every room. I watched my teachers cry and gasp. I thought we were watching a movie. I was too little to understand and the adults at my school just didn’t have the heart to explain it to me.
I remember going home early from school. My mom hugged me tight, as if I was going to float away if she didn’t grab on. My family huddled silently around the television, watching the same footage playing over and over again on an endless loop.
I was trying to piece everything together. The panicked voices of the newspeople. The smoke. The planes. I was a smart kid, and I figured it out on my own. But I didn’t want to believe it. It was all too horrible for a little nine-year-old girl to process. I cried without stopping and no amount of hugs and kisses from my parents could make it better. What made it worse was how scared my parents looked. They looked as helpless as I did. I was convinced that the world was going to end.
But it didn’t.
In the days that followed, I watched news stories of brave men and women, sacrificing everything to help one another. In a time of hopelessness and tragedy, ordinary people turned into superheroes before our eyes. Even as a child, I was so proud of my country. I was so proud of the people who thought of others before themselves. I thought to myself, so this is what America is like. I’d read about acts of courage and selflessness in history books and fairy tales. But, up until then, I thought they were all but extinct. I didn’t know people could still be so brave.
The world almost ended eleven years ago. So many people were lost. So much damage was done. And the whole world looked down at us like mourners at a funeral. For a moment, even we thought this country was beyond repair. Recovery seemed impossible, unthinkable.
But, even when we were faced with insurmountable odds, we fought to get back up. We were not about to accept defeat. Any doubt we had was cast aside and an incredible patriotism and love for this country emerged out of every single American. We stood together to honor the fallen and we made sure that their deaths were not in vain.
We can never forget what happened that day. It was a day that tested us and shaped us. And we’re stronger now. We’re united, under one flag, with a common goal: to preserve the American Dream for our children and our grandchildren. And no one can take that away from us.