Today is September 11, 2021. It’s been 20 years since the terrorist attacks on our country. Every year when this date rolls around, I feel a tug to watch footage from that day, to remember. I don’t know why exactly, since it does nothing but bring about a heaviness in my mind and gut, but yet, here I am, pausing the television to write my story and reflect, before I again, hit play and travel back in my mind to that day in my life. As a college student finishing my last semester and internship with a group of 5th graders, I had no clue what was happening or how it would affect us. We flew by the seat of our pants in how to best address such a frightening time with the young children I was teaching. How much is too much? How must my parents have felt with me being away from home during such an uncertain time? I was barely an adult, feeling both terribly alone, yet closer than ever to my fellow American citizens, as we were dipped into a vat of common humanity like never before.
I often consider 9/11 to be similar to the attack on Pearl Harbor in the way Americans of different generations feel and respond to its anniversary. Unfortunately, because of my age, I have often dismissed Pearl Harbor as something “from the history books”. I wasn’t alive at that time, so it hasn’t had the power over me that 9/11 does and will likely continue to do. I feel disheartened by the idea that the September 11 anniversary will be skimmed over, like an advertisement post on social media, but I understand why it is so. Because of this, I see now that I feel an obligation of sorts, to pause and remember. I don’t want to forget.
What does this mean for us, as Americans? Why pull ourselves back into that pain? I firmly believe by doing so, we are honoring and showing respect to every single life lost, those impacted by loss, by trauma, and by chronic pain brought on by the rescue mission. I also feel it can help us with perspective on pain, compassion, and the honor of being an American. We were so vulnerable on that day and the many days to follow. It felt frightening to move about our everyday lives with the uncertainty of what was to come. It also brought a pride in my country and feeling of comaraderie like I have never felt before or since. Although our country is torn and heightened with fear, I want that reminder of what is possible. I want to pause and reflect on how many Americans were driven into service because of that day twenty years ago. How many families were affected both on that day, but since then as they have protected us from further terrorism? I want to pause and consider how difficult it must be to carry the task of leadership in our country, especially on an anniversary like today. Thank you, Families of Lost Ones. Thank you, Americans. I hope we will never forget.