Fourteen years ago today, our country was attacked, and nearly three thousand people were killed. It is an event that has changed not only our country, but the whole world. It has forever left a mark on each of our hearts, and if there is one question that you could ask any (adult) American, it is “Where were you on 9/11?”. What were you doing when the planes hit? It may be the one question that everyone will have an answer to.
As for me, I was eight years old when it happened. I was at my dad’s house that day, and I had to get up very early because he always had to take us to daycare before school so he could go to work. I vaguely remember him watching it on the news, after the first plane hit. I remember it being on the radio while we were in the car driving to the home daycare that I went to. When we got to the daycare, the news was on, and you could see that both towers were on fire. I remember all of this, but mostly what I remember is the fear. I didn’t fully understand everything that was happening, but I knew that people were saying that it was intentional, which terrified me. Now, I was not a particularly sheltered kid growing up. I grew up moving back and forth between my mom’s and my dad’s, and as anyone that has been through that knows, there are different rules at each house. And at my dad’s house, it was perfectly acceptable to watch shows like Cops or America’s Most Wanted. And we did, on a semi-regular basis. All this to say that at eight years old, I had seen more terrible things on television than a lot of other kids my age. But nothing ever seemed as real or as threatening as 9/11. Most of all, I remember crying and begging my dad not to leave me. I don’t think I was so much afraid for myself as I was that if he left, the terrorists would attack his job as well, and I might never see him again. Obviously, at twenty two, I know that terrorists are not likely to be interested in a Comcast office in Vacaville. But that’s what 9/11 did. It caused fear in everyone, or at least everyone that was old enough to understand what was happening.
However, that was only the effect of 9/11 for a few hours. What happened after the initial shock is far more important. We pulled together. We protected each other, and we supported each other. So many people ran into the buildings after the planes hit, trying to help as many people as they could, putting their own welfare to the side. Osama Bin Laden wanted to cause division among us, and to break our country down. And he failed. So many emotions are related to the September eleventh attacks: fear, profound sadness, intense anger. However, another that can be associated with that day is pride. I for one am very proud of how our nation reacted to these attacks. More than anything, people responded with love. You can see this in the videos of first responders running towards the burning buildings, trying to get as many people out as possible. You can see this in the hundreds of videos of people crying in the street, over people that they had never met. And you can hear it in all of the phone calls that were made that day, particularly those made by people who were not sure they would survive the ordeal. There are two quotes that I always think of in relation to 9/11. One is by J.K. Rowling, and one was by Mr. Rogers. J.K. Rowling was on the Oprah show a few years back (the interview was not about the 9/11 attacks), and one question that she was asked garnered a particularly touching answer. You can view the exchange in the video below. Only the first two minutes or so is really applicable to this topic, but obviously you are welcome to watch it all. I just think that you get more of a feel for the meaning behind the quote when you hear it spoken, rather than simply reading the words.
The other quote that I think we should focus on was spoken by none other than Mr. Rogers. As far as I know, he was not even talking about 9/11 at the time, but even if he wasn’t, it is very applicable. You can read this quote to the right of the page. I think this is a great quote to live by, whether it be about the September 11th attacks, or something completely unrelated. “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” And that is what Osama Bin Laden and his followers were not counting on. They were not expecting us to rally together. They expected us to crumble. But they were wrong. Americans used that incident to bond together, rather than allowing it to tear us apart. And it is for these reasons that no matter how screwed up our government may seem, no matter how vicious political parties and disagreements amongst them may get, I will always be proud to be an American. We forget sometimes that regardless of any other differences, politically or otherwise, we are all human. We all have loved ones. We all have hopes, dreams, and fears. We often forget these basic truths, but on that day we remembered. And because of that, our attackers were not successful. They did hurt us, there is no doubt about that. But they did not break us. And therefore, they did not win.