It is a sad reality that every modern American generation has been united by its own horrific tragedy. For our grandparents, it was Pearl Harbor. For our parents, JFK's assassination in Dallas. And September 11th will forever define my generation. These are the "I will always remember where I was when I heard" moments that draw a brutal demarcation across our history: the Before and the After. We can rebuild, we can find our own ways to cope and heal, but life is never, ever the same.
In 2001, I was in law school at the University of Florida, engaged in the mundane task of getting ready for class, when my roommate called out that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. How could this be? What had happened to the pilot that the plane couldn't avoid such a tall building? What a terrible accident...
Then the second plane hit.
It seemed to me that the world changed around me in that instant. There was Before. And then there was After.
We walked to our first class, where everyone was in shock. I remember one classmate who had worn a black "I [heart] NY" shirt that day unknowingly - she hadn't heard the news that morning until getting to campus. During that class, news of the other planes broke and the rest of the day's classes were canceled. We got home and turned on the TV.
The horrors kept coming. The New York City skyline marred by a gigantic cloud of smoke. How will they ever put that fire out? If they can hit the Pentagon, then nowhere is really safe, is it? Oh no, is that a person falling? Oh my God. They're jumping. They're jumping.
The word went out that there were going to be thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of burn victims and other devastating injuries, so we went to go donate blood. People were saying that burn treatments require a lot of blood, and that the blood banks in the NY area wouldn't be able to keep up with the demand. We were 1,000 miles away and this small act was one of the few things that we could do and feel like we were helping. There were long lines at all of the bloodmobiles on campus. Many of the students in line were crying, and American flags were already popping up all over campus.
Unfortunately, we got back home to see the footage of the towers collapsing. Many of those injured people were gone, in a few seconds. The rest of the day after that was a blur of watching the same terrible scenes over and over.
My precious little niece turned two years old at the end of July. I pray that her generation can grow up without their own September 11th.
Please keep the family and friends of the 2,977 lives we lost that day in your thoughts and prayers, as well as the brave members of our military who continue to defend freedom every day.
God Bless America, and God Bless You and Your Family.