I grew up in the perfect location to feel particularly attached to all of the locations involved in the attacks, within a few hours drive from each, this was not just my country being attacked, but my backyard and neighbors. Almost exactly a month before, I was thrilled to make my first real visit into Manhattan, where my friend and I must have annoyed anyone who came within 10 feet of us. We took a ferry and were so ecstatic that we made up a stupid little song about New York that we sang relentlessly as we crossed the river. Still, it didn’t feel real until the second we saw those two towers gleaming in the morning sunlight.
I, like most, will likely recall the details of the morning of the 11th as long as I live. I was in French class when there was a knock at the door. Someone needed to speak to my teacher immediately and a substitute came to watch over us while she went into the hallway. We were confused but figured whatever it was was likely nothing to be too worried about – until my teacher rushed back in the room crying, grabbed her things, and immediately left. The principal came back in and explained what was happening as best he could. We were young though and grew up in the prosperous 90’s, so the idea of this kind of attack was unfathomable at best. The only clear thing at the time was that the place where my teacher’s son worked had just been struck by a plane.
Unfortunately, we know how the story ends. Though, I am happy to say that her son was alright, thousands of others from all over the world and country were not. That day did show us though just how strong and united we can be, both as a country and a global community. Countless heroes emerged from the dust as rescue workers refused to give up searching for victims and regular people risked their lives to help those they had never even met. Their inspiring strength reminded us that we are not just republican, gay, Latino, Jewish, progressive, blonde, female, libertarian, southern, middle class, young or any other label. Rather, citizens of the world who, united, could make it through anything. Let us remember that this week as we struggle with revisiting the difficult emotions of that horrendous day and let us celebrate the lives of the heroes who perished by honoring their message of hope, altruism, and perseverance in the face of fear and hate.