As you all know, or in case you have forgotten, (But honestly? How could you even forget such a life-changing event?), that today marks the 12th Anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on America. When I was asked to write a piece about the day, I was hesitant. This is, and will always be a very tough topic for me to write about. But anyways, once I agreed to at least try to write something, I immediately began to wonder what kind of article I should write. We could go the hard way and get all out political about it, or I could answer the question asked by many, “where were you?” of sorts, no criticism, no comments on the war, just reflection. I chose the latter.
September 11, 2001 should have been just like any other day for me, but it didn’t. I remember waking up, getting dresses, eating breakfast, and making the quick seven-minute walk to my elementary school. But as I stepped foot on campus, I sensed a very different aura. The usual fast paced excitement of the morning, was replaced by an eerily quiet atmosphere.
Not a single student was sitting outside of their classroom laughing or talking while they waited for the bell to ring and for their teacher to let them in. As I approached my fifth grade classroom, the doors were already open, and my classmates shoes were already lined up neatly outside. (We removed our shoes prior to entering our classroom so the carpet wouldn’t get dirty.) I entered and instead of being greeted by our bubbly teacher, I saw her and my fellow classmates crowded around the TV watching the news.
I joined the circle and watched in horror as American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center followed shortly by the United Airlines Flight 175 crash into the south tower. I was shocked to say the very least, wondering what had happened to cause such a tragedy. My classmates, teachers, and I sat there speechless, mouths agape, watching as both fiery towers slowly began to crumble right before our eyes. And that’s when we saw it, and that’s when the tears began to flow…people…with no other escape route…with no other way out…jumping from the towers…plummeting hundreds of feet towards the ground, hoping and praying that they would survive.
Our teacher stood in front of the TV shielding our eyes from witnessing the tragic event. It was extremely difficult to watch and very hard for our nine and ten year old minds to understand the gravity of the situation. Just as the teacher was about to turn off the TV and attempt to explain what was going on, the news station showed the video of American Airlines Flight number 77 crash into the Pentagon. Our shock deepened and we all turned our attention to our teacher demanding answers.
“An act of terrorism on the US,” that’s what we were told. As nine and ten year olds, we didn’t understand to the fullest extent what that meant. Our teacher explained it as best as she could for our young minds to comprehend. “An action or actions in which very bad people cause dangerous harm to good people.” It didn’t make sense to us, why someone would want to do that? Our teacher couldn’t give us an answer. She finally turned off the TV and we eventually went about our day in an obviously somber mood.
Ten days later on September 20th, 2001 President George W. Bush declared the ‘War on Terror’ and on October 7th, 2001 the first United States and British armed forces troops were in Afghanistan. It still didn’t click for us. After all, war was just a simple card game we played during recess. We just knew that these very bad guys hurt our country and that we sent our good guys to stop them. We just accepted it and went on about our day.
A few years later in 2004, my father was deployed to Afghanistan where the heart of the war raged on. An eighteen-month long deployment seemed like an eternity in the eyes of my younger brothers and I, but it went by as best as it could. To this day, I still have no knowledge of what he and his heavy helicopter unit really did besides inserting and extracting ground forces. But the magnitude of the September 11th and the subsequent war that followed, and what it all meant still didn’t register for us.
It wasn’t until a few more years later as a sophomore in high school sitting in my US History class, did I finally begin to understand it all. On September 11, 2006, after a moment of silence, we sat and discussed the attacks and the war. We learned what caused al-Qaeda to attack America and the events that led up to the attacks. We learned about why we went to war in the Middle East and what we were fighting for.
People still question what it is that we are fighting for, and the answer is plain and simple. We are defending our great country and our freedom; the two things that these Muslims extremist tried to take away. But they soon learned that when the wolf comes growling at the door, we will ALWAYS be ready to fight back.
In an event that rewrote our history books, 2,977 lives were lost this day twelve years ago. Many more lives would be lost in the war against terror in the name of our country, a great sacrifice that we will forever be in debt for. No matter what our enemies may bring us, we will always stand together, united as one.
I pray that those who have lost their lives are at peace wherever they may be. I pray that those first responders and those who helped with the search and rescue have found their solace. To those who have served, who continue to serve, and to those who we’ve lost, thank you for your sacrifice. We will Never Forget.