-President George W. Bush
Waking up, it seemed like a regular Tuesday. I rushed off to fourth grade to arrive early and see my favorite teacher, Mr. Z. I remember asking him if there was anything I could help him do, and he had me organize multiplication sheets at my desk.
I sat in the back, somewhat closer to the classroom door than most of the other children. Our classroom door was open, and Miss Rossiter's classroom door was too, allowing me to see into her 5th grade classroom. Her television was on and showed the news, which looked startling - even from the distance that I was at.
As I focused on the screen trying to make sense of the images that were flashing before my eyes, the camera angles switched rapidly to the plane making its way across the sky and towards a tall building.
I watched in horror as the plane soared magnificently into the building and burst into a vibrant display of flames, smoke and wreckage. I knew there had to be people on the plane. People in the building. In the pit of my stomach, it felt wrong. My brain tried to rationalize what I had just witnessed. It had to be an accident. A terrible, terrible accident.
I remember looking to Mr. Z for some sort of explanation as to what was happening, as my other classmates did, but he seemed as horrified and dumbstruck as we were. We spent the rest of the day processing the information that we would later discover: the planes were hijacked by terrorists and crashed determinedly into the World Trade Centers in New York City. This was no accident.
Being only nine years old at the time, it didn't make much sense. We had learned about history and wars that occurred in America, but had never experienced anything like that first hand. War and terrorism were things that we only read about in books, or watched on the television occurring in other countries. Things like this in America were things of the past. Eleven years ago, I learned that I was wrong.
From that day forward, I looked at America differently. We didn't just have people fight for our freedoms, we have people continually fighting for our freedoms. Freedom isn't a trophy you can obtain and let sit in a trophy case for eternity. It's a constant battle. Our grandfathers and great grandfathers fought for our country in the past, but today it is our fathers, our husbands, our brothers, cousins and sons, our mothers, our wives, our sisters and daughters that fight to keep America the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Yesterday, I attended the funeral of my great-grandpa Glen, who was a World War II veteran. He witnessed Pearl Harbor first hand, was there for Iwo Jima, Hiroshima and the end of the war. He lived to be 94 years old and at his funeral, his casket was draped with the American flag to honor his service to our country. As part of his funeral, the US Military sent a post to perform military rites at the grave site. Two men carefully removed the flag and folded it into a triangle and presented this to my great grandmother. As he presented the flag, he spoke saying "The United States of America extends their thanks to this great man for defending his nation". After this, a 21 gun salute to my great grandfather rang through the air, and silence fell as the bugle played.
I wouldn't be able to describe how I felt in words - the mix of spiritual emotion and patriotism that filled my heart. Accurately, at least. But I will never forget that feeling.
The Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays. Sans barbeques, parades, and the red white and blue attire, it's always been about something bigger - the celebration of America. The idea of being free to make our own decisions, to raise our families in a safe place, to grow and expand to unlimited heights, to achieve whatever it is that we desire.
September 11th is a reminder of many of the same things, but also serves as another reminder. It reminds us of the price of our freedoms; what some had to pay for us to celebrate the liberties we know and love. Great grandpa Glen said it wisely when he said "There are no winners in war". There is always loss. September 11th was a great loss for many families and friends, and for America. It will stand as a constant reminder of the price of our freedoms and how blessed we truly are to live in a country where not only do we have the ability to create our own freedoms, but to fight for them as well. It serves as a reminder that the nation is a nation united - we are all one and the same. We are Americans.
Remember September 11th.