The Day America Was Changed Forever

NYTIt is difficult to believe that it has been fourteen years since the terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington DC, and Shanksville, PA claimed thousands of innocent lives and forever changed the landscape of the United States, and the world for that matter. The images of planes flying into buildings, individuals jumping for safety, debris filled streets, acts of extreme heroism will be forever notched into the memories of a watching world. Prior to the terrorist attacks, September 11th was just another date on the calendar. After the attacks, September 11th became something entirely different. It became a rallying cry. It became a point of reference. It became, as Franklin D Roosevelt said before Congress after the attack on Pearl Harbor, “a date that will live in infamy.” It is a date, as former president George W. Bush said on the evening of September 11, 2001, “Today, our nation saw evil, the very worst of human nature.”

It is one of those days that everyone remembers their exact location. It is a date that everyone can recount exactly what they were doing when the planes struck the North and South World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon in Washington DC, and spoiled attacks of hijacked Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. Previous generations had such life-defining moments. Everyone remembers where they were when news came across the radio that Pearl Harbor had been attacked by the empire of Japan. Everyone remembers where they were when news broke  that John F Kennedy had been assassinated. The events and horrors of September 11th, 2001 will be a day frozen in time for America, and the rest of the world.

I can remember where I was on that day. I was on the campus of North Florida Community College in Madison, FL in my first class of the day, Liberal Arts Math. I remember that the attacks came close to the end of that class. Students filed into the student center to hear the latest update. We were in there just a few minutes when we were told that all remaining classes for the day had been cancelled. As I made my forty-five minute drive home, I remember thinking about what had just happened. I remember thinking about the extreme loss of life. I remember wondering what would be next. I remember wondering whether or not those responsible would ever be found and brought to justice.

Much has happened in fourteen years. Responsible parties have been identified and for the most part brought to justice. As Americans, we have been introduced to phrases that we rarely considered before: terrorist, Islamic fundamentalist, extremists, and jihad.  We have engaged in a war on two fronts that is beginning to come to an end. Plans are being made to build an Islamic mosque very near the site of Ground Zero sparking heated debate. A tower has been erected on the site of the original towers to serve as a reminder (as if we needed one) of the events of that day, demonstrating the resiliency of the American people. On this day may we remember, reflect, and pray. Pray continually for the families whose lives were forever changed. Pray continually for our military who are fighting today to ensure these events are not repeated. Pray continually for our country’s leaders who wade through the aftermath of September 11th . May we also pray for the spirit of unity we all felt as Americans on September 12th, 2001.

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