Like many, I still remember 9.11.01. Every feeling, every moment. Probably better than the births of my children or my wedding day. The uncertainty, the fear, the void, the sadness, the anger we all felt brought us together. I was raised by a patriotic family. I knew the sacrifices of my grandfather, cousin, and stepfather for our country. I was fortunate to have parents and family members who taught by example what it meant to serve our country and also serve and help others on a regular basis. Still, on this day, I remember a feeling that is still fresh on this day 19 years later. A feeling of unity that I had never felt before.
As a sophomore in college, I remember us all coming together in the campus chapel to pray and be together. Throughout the morning we had passed from classes seeing footage on television of the horror that was ensuing just a few miles from our campus and also two states north. School was canceled for the rest of the day, as was field hockey practice. Both had never happened before. In the age of landlines, we tried to reach relatives to quickly say we were okay, so not to tie up the busy lines. We comforted friends who were waiting to hear if their dad went to his meeting at the pentagon or if their family went into the city. As the days passed, we worried our friends from other countries would be sent home, no longer able to study with student visas. We reassured them that despite their country of origin, we supported them and wanted them learning with us.
As a country, we held tight together, united against an evil we had never collectively seen before on our soil. Today, 19 years later, we must remember that day we stood together in a time where now so many things are tearing us apart. If you weren’t born yet, or old enough to remember that day, I urge you to watch the footage. What you will see in the midst of chaos is so many running towards the rubble, towards the unknown with hopes of saving just one more person. First responders, people on the streets, people who escaped a burning building only to run back in to help one more person.
I worry today that so many are starting to forget. Forgetting what it felt like to feel so connected to every other citizen in this great country, regardless of who they voted for or what bill they supported. I worry as a country we are giving more energy to the evil than the good. And because of the evil few, I worry that many are forgetting those who on a daily basis run into the face of danger and evil, no matter what the cost or what is unknown.
This day is emotional for many of us who remember. It’s also an emotional day for those of us who know someone who would answer such a call in a heartbeat and run into the unknown. My husband is a firefighter, outside of Washington, D.C. and at work yet again on 9/11. Like him, so many of each of our friends and family answer the call daily. Our first responders, police officers, hospital workers, and more all run, without hesitation, into the danger and provide calm in the chaos. We must continue to support them day in and day out. No matter how small or large the call, they will run and take the risk to save even one life, knowing it may cost them their own.
All those years ago, I also remember the overwhelming fear of the draft being reinstated. For over a year I worried about my brother who had just turned 18 and my friends that were in the military or with me as a young adult. The thing is, we never had a draft and here is why. After that day in 2001, so many people felt moved to answer the call. They stepped up so others wouldn’t have to go. They enlisted or reenlisted. They stepped up to defend our country and to honor the many innocent lives lost,not knowing where they were headed or what evil awaited.
In 2001 we realized how many heroes walked among us. True Americans. True Patriots. Today, 19 years later, we must remember and support those heroes that continue to walk among us. We too must remember to answer the call, however big or small, to help and support others. Regardless of status, race, orientation, profession, political stance, we must answer the call. We are the land of the free, because of the brave. Answering the call to be a good human and help those in need, in the midst of our differences, is what makes an American and a true Patriot.
May we never forget that day. May we never forget the lives lost. May we never forget the lives saved.
May we never forget that feeling of unity. May we never forget what makes us American.