It started out as a normal Tuesday morning. It didn’t stay that way.
As a sophomore in college, I was sitting in my class in Utah at eight in the morning, when my teacher mentioned something about a plane hitting a building in New York. It was one sentence, but somehow I just knew it was bad news. Slowly the minutes ticked by as I waited for class to finish so I could figure out what was happen.
As I walked to the student center, I noticed two things. It was quieter than normal and where were all the people. I found them in the student center. It seemed everybody on campus was huddled around every available television set. Some were crying, but, most of were just sitting there in stunned silence trying to process the events they were seeing. We watched reruns of planes hitting the twin towers and the Pentagon and didn’t know how it could get any worse. Until it did.
The collapsing of the first tower shocked us out of our stunned silence. It put into focus that mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, and friends were not coming home and our hearts broke.
It’s been 15 years since that fateful day, but each September 11 I’m transported back. Here’s what I’m planning on telling my children about that day.
Terrorist aim is to cause terror, but we can’t let them keep us from living
On September 12, I walked into my art classes only to find the addition of two ROTC soldiers. One of my classmate’s father was a high ranking general and there was fears that this classmate could be kidnapped and used as a pawn. While the rest of her family was whisked to a safe house in the hours following the attacks, she wanted didn’t want to put in a safe house for who knows how long. The compromise, she would be accompanied at all times by at least 1 soldier.
I admired how she handled the situation. Her family was in a safe house and she had every reason to be scared, but she said that didn’t want fear to dictate her life as she felt doing so would give the terrorists another win. So she stood up the terrorist in the only way she knew how—by living her life.
That most people are good
I hate needles. But, you found me in the days after the attack lining up with others to give blood because I needed to help. The stories of first responders who gave their lives to help others, friends who dragged/helped/encouraged friends to make it to safety, people who opened their homes and wallets to others who were suffering, helped to heal my heart. As a nation, we became a little kinder and reminded me that goodness is out there we just need to look for it.
That we have more in common
The terrorists didn’t distinguish their victims. They took young, old, religious, atheists, US citizens, non-US citizens from different backgrounds. Often we see the obvious one or two differences and disregard all the ways we are more alike. In the days after 9/11 I saw people who may not have ever had anything to do with each other beforehand, standing side by side.
That there is hope
9/11 was a tragedy—something that touched all of us. In the days after 9/11 American flags appeared everywhere. All of those flags I saw as tiny symbols of hope. Of a reminder that as families, communities, and countrymen we had an obligation to live for those who had not.
Each year that is the message I take away from the day. The joy, peace, and happiness that life brings and is everything that day was not.
May we never forget the sacrifice of so many people—those that had the choice and those who didn’t and recommit to making the world a better place.