On September 11, 2001, I was sitting in my 11th grade history class.
We had just started the school year, and we were going to study American History.
We were discussing what history meant; what it meant to a group of fifteen very privileged teenage girls, the kind of young women that were destined for Ivy Leagues and internships on the Hill.
We are in a time of peace and prosperity, said one girl, we will not see anything of significance in our lifetime.
No sooner had those words left her lips with such certainty that there was a knock on the classroom door.
The TV was turned on, the girl that had spoken turned white as the world as we knew it shattered around us, the second tower was hit, and the Pentagon, and the plane went down in Pennsylvania.
Tears flowed. Girls had parents and siblings in New York and DC . My parents, proud naturalized citizens, wept. We all felt the weight of the collective injury, an injury to our country, to our people. But in reality, we could not imagine. I could not imagine, a thousand miles away, the terror of those whose last minutes were spent in smoke and flames and dust and horror. I could not imagine the pain of those who lost loved ones with such unimaginable violence.
Flags waved, songs were sung, we vowed not to let the terrorists win, and we went to war. The world was changed. The girls in the classroom that day grew up. We grew up in peace and prosperity, but not the same peace and prosperity we had expected. We were afraid. We served, our brothers and sisters served, and some gave their lives, their limbs, their health.
Ten years later, 9/11/11, the sun rises and I’m flying east, to Washington D.C. The world has changed. It’s scarier. Uncertain. The attacks of 9/11 broke something in each of us that can’t be fixed. The images shown over this weekend in the media reminded us of how fresh these wounds are still.
Remember always how these events, these lives, redefined what freedom means, and what it takes to preserve it in this world.
Battle against violence and intolerance with forgiveness, curiosity, understanding, and an unshakable commitment to a peaceful and free society. Starting with ourselves. Be peaceful, be free. Never Surrender.