The Day That Changed Us

No matter how fast I walked the streets near campus on the evening of 9/11/01, the fear followed. And I’m a fast walker.

“Here!! How could it happen HERE?”

I wasn’t being rhetorical. I was actually looking for an answer–naïve, coddled American teenager that I was.

Of course, there was no answer.

My best friend is from India with whom I was walking had seen bad things before. Unlike our youth, she and her peers had seen poverty, injustice and even worse, in her home country.

But we lucky American kids—thanks to the bravery and sacrifices of generations past—hadn’t.

Highways were clogged as downtown workers rushed home to the comfort of their husbands’ and wives’ arms, the sweet smell of their children’s foreheads.

Flip phones burned in parents’ hands as they burned battery life making sure their kids were safe on college campuses nationwide.

If Pittsburgh looked like that, I can only imagine what New York City looked like on the ground.

But no matter where you were that day, chances are you didn’t know what end was up. A force of evil crushed our compass, leaving us all searching for our True North.

It wasn’t long, though, before we knew who was behind that awful attack, and since then, brave men and women have mobilized to defend our freedom.

We waged war. Some protested war. We all felt intense patriotism. Some felt intense anger.

We still haven’t quite figured out how to eliminate the scourge of terror, but I like to think we are getting closer every day.

In the years after the horror of that day, I reported from the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the Plane of Heroes went down. Flight 93. I interviewed their moms, dads, siblings and spouses. They were so dignified. So proud. And they have every reason to be.

When I was there years ago, the memorial was a chain link fence stuffed with memorabilia—flags, hats, badges, pamphlets, papers and articles of clothing.

Today that memorial is what it should be—dignified and austere. Reflection benches line a peaceful walkway. Acres of the very field where that plane crashed, left intact.

There was always an eerie sense of peace there, considering the anguish of what those heroes must have felt as they saw that very land below their plane. I can only imagine that sense of peace is now magnified.

God bless the victims, God bless their families, God bless our military, and God bless our leaders as they work to give us peace in an ever-dangerous world.

I still can’t walk without feeling like there’s something chasing us.

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