September 11, 2001 was a pivotal day for all Americans that left an indelible mark on our national character. When the twin towers fell, thousands of innocent lives were lost and our country experienced a staggering sense of devastation, astonishment, and heartbreak. I was in first grade when the tragedy occurred, and I remember feeling upset and confused as I watched the news with my classmates. I saw the images of the smoking, flaming buildings and slowly read the words on the screen. “BREAKING NEWS: Two planes crash into towers of World Trade Center.” Chills ran through my body as I began to comprehend what had happened. The United States of America had been attacked by terrorists.
I didn’t understand why we had been attacked, or how this could have happened to our beautiful, strong, powerful nation. I saw tears stream down my teacher’s face, and I soon felt a cold, wet teardrop race down my cheek. Before long, other students were crying as well. As first graders, we didn’t know why this tragedy had occurred or what the implications were for our country, but we knew that this was very, very bad. Eventually, my teacher turned the television off. The scenes had been intense, from roaring flames, to burned, injured survivors, to screaming, crying bystanders. We tried to go on with our school day, but there was an unavoidable sense of sadness that hovered over the room. Even though I was only in first grade at the time, I will never forget the way I felt when I heard the news. It was devastating.
Eleven years later, I now have a better understanding of what exactly happened on September 11th. Al Qaeda, an extremist Muslim militant group, led by Osama bin Laden, attacked America for a variety of reasons, including hatred, religious issues, and foreign policy. The terrorist attacks caused severe damage to the World Trade Center and Pentagon, as well as the loss of several innocent lives. The prospect of the September 11th attacks was terrifying and shocking for all Americans, young and old. Yet, the most significant and deep understanding I have today concerning 9/11 is that America was able to emerge from the depths of sorrow. Courage won out over fear. Healing won out over brokenness. Hope won out over despair.
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Americans were united as one with courage, strength, and perseverance. Our unwavering resolve proves that a nation is not defined by the colors of its flag or the monuments in its capital, but rather by the way its citizens respond in moments of adversity.
The firefighters who rushed into the burning buildings and the passengers of Flight 93 who fought back against overwhelming odds demonstrated the courage of a nation eternally committed to freedom. The men and women who died on 9/11 did not perish in vain, but irrevocably moved all Americans to fight on for the cause of protecting our democratic ideals. Even today, American soldiers continue to risk their lives in order to defend our country, proving that America will not be controlled by fear.
I had been scared on that day in first grade, certainly. Understandably. But I should have taken into consideration what I have known all along. We are a nation of courage, liberty, and equality. When our nation faces times of hardship, and sorrow and despair clutch our hearts, we should always remember to have hope. Although September 11th will forever live on in infamy, it shall also be remembered as the day that motivated citizens across the United States to come together in a time of tribulation and strive to revive itself. We held on to hope.
Those who perished eleven years ago will always be remembered in our hearts and in our souls. May God bless their families and loved ones and may God bless the United States of America.