I was 6 years old. I was sitting in Mrs. Ikeda’s 2nd grade class. It was business as usual. And then, just like that, we got sent home. The announcement sent us reeling, an entire day off of school! But when I walked outside, it was loud. Really loud. I looked up. Giant black helicopters were flying every which way over the school. That’s when my excitement dissipated. Even at the age of 6, I knew something was wrong. I think my mom picked me up from school, and then I was home. I ran to the television, anticipating a day of relaxation, when I saw it.

The World Trade Center. Falling. Over and over again. People crying and screaming, covered in smoke and dust, looking terrified beyond all reason. Faces full of loss, shock, awe, and sadness. Lots and lots of sadness.

I will never forget that moment: when I truly realized that the lives of strangers mattered to me. That how these people were feeling and what they were going through were important. It was the moment when I realized that there were certain things in the world that shouldn’t happen, that are wrong.

It’s was a lot to take in at such a young age. Maybe I remember it too intensely and it’s grown over the years, but the overall ideas were planted in my head back then. That mindset has taken a part in shaping who I am, what I do, what I want to become and have a career in.

Every year on this day, September the 11th, I remember that day. I watch the videos, look at the pictures, read the stories. I think of how one of my relatives was 5 or 10 minutes away from being one of the lost. For one day out of the year, I engulf myself in sadness, not out of masochism, but out of remembrance. It may be painful, eyes watery, a tear or two shed, but it’s necessary. Because no matter the hurt we feel now, we can’t forget what came with that day. What formed, what changed, how the United States reacted. We can’t forget the thousands of people whose lives were taken involuntarily, who gave their lives to save others, and those who did everything in their power to deter a plane from hitting the White House. Every single one of these people are important. They matter. And just because it is an event in the past, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look at what has happened since then.

It was horrifying. Sad. Emotional. But, in all the terror, something incredible happened: we came together. We, as a people, united as one, proudly represented the United States, standing together against this evil. It was unbelievable, how we were able to have enough common ground to become one as a nation. And as we remember the horror, we must also remember the miracle that followed, the enrollment in the military, the need to protect our country and tell our enemies they made a big mistake.

Here is a quote from Jon Stewart on his first show after 9/11 that can sum this post up:

“Any fool can blow something up. Any fool can destroy, but to see these guys, these firefighters, these policemen, and people from all over the country, literally, with buckets…rebuilding. That, that is..that’s extraordinary. And that’s why we’ve already won. They can’t…it’s light, it’s democracy it’s..we’ve already won. They can’t shut that down. They live in chaos. And chaos, it can’t sustain itself. It never could. It’s too easy and it’s too unsatisfying.”

We will never forget.