It’s hard to believe that it’s been 12 years. It was one of those pivotal moments in all of our lives. For my generation, it was the first of its kind. The first moment of history that occurred right before our eyes. If you ask any of us, we can tell you exactly how the day unfolded and how the events played out. Much like our parent’s generation, who could tell you exactly where they were when JFK was assassinated. September 11th was our moment. A moment that changed our world, our country, and millions of families lives forever.
When the first plan struck the World Trade Center, I was just beginning the day. I was in my Sophomore year of high school. I was in (very fittingly) my US History class with Mr. Randall. Reports came out that a plan had struck the world trade center. He saw it on the Google News headlines and reported it to our class. At that point, reports stated that it was a small private jet that crashed. Little did we know.
The bell rang and we changed classes. Everyone was talking about it. All of the lockers were a buzz with the news. We navigated the halls to our next class. I headed to Spanish.
Mrs. Kooistra was our teacher. She was sitting on a stool in front of the class. I will never forget the look on her face. She looked distraught. We all filed in and sat in our seats. The room was silent. Mrs. Kooistra began. We talked, as a class, about what was going on. She asked the class if we would like to watch the news, because more details were coming out. A plane had gone down in Pennsylvania, as well. We unanimously voted yes. She turned on the TV.
Literally, we watched as history happened in front of us. We watched the second plane hit. We watched the news unfold of the Pentagon attack. There were tears, silence and quiet sobs. We watched as the 1st tower collapsed, then the second. We watched in horror. We saw the first hand accounts of people who had escaped, people who were running in the street and the desperate plea of those looking for their loved ones. The teacher sobbed in fear that her husband would be deployed, fellow classmates cried out because they had family that lived and worked in New York. I get goose bumps just thinking about it. It is a moment that neither I, nor one of my classmates, will ever forget.
As a young 16-year-old, I remember that the world didn’t seem right. Not that day for sure, but even days later. People you encountered at the grocery stores, at school, in church all looked sad. They looked scared. There was a look of despair.
Then something great came out of such a terrible tragedy. American’s stopped. They stopped the furious pace, the crazy work schedules, the forgetting about others. They stopped, and they started. They started caring. They started helping. They started to remember what was important. Family became a focus. There was abundant compassion for complete strangers. The frenetic pace slowed. Priorities shifted. Pride for our country grew. American flags hung at almost every house. A faith in humanity was restored.
Out of evil came tremendous stories.
Twelve years later. We are a changed generation. We are a changed country.
Although the fight is not over, let’s use today to remember those who lost their lives that day. Those who served and are serving. Those who defend our country daily. Let’s be kind to one another. To stop and reflect on what today really means. Let’s pay it forward…to someone we don’t know. A random act of kindness.
To prove that September 11th did change us…for the better.