15 Years

We wake up today, on a sunny Sunday morning. We go out for the paper, we drink our k-cup coffee, we scroll through our emails and social media feeds on our smart phones. We get in the car and head to church, to the grocery store, to wherever we have to go in our busy lives.

But today… Today is different. Today, we feel a strange, ominous sadness. And behind that sadness, is a little bit of pride. Today, we remember 15 years ago. We remember the day the towers fell and so many innocent souls were lost to the worst kind of evil in this world. We remember every movement we made that morning, and it still lingers as we go through our days now, in 2016, 15 years later.

Me, I was in second grade. I had no concept of “evil,” outside of knowing not to talk to strangers or get in the car with strange men. I thought people were, generally, good. I had a childish hope that everything was always going to be okay. As I grabbed my bag to head to the school bus, there it was. On TV. Headlines, “Breaking News” banners, and news anchors that weren’t exactly sure what to say or how to act. A building, smoke coming out of the side, and wide-eyed men and women just saying “I think a plane just hit the World Trade Center….” At the time, there was still speculation that it was an accident. I’m in the central timezone, so it wasn’t until I was on the bus, laughing with my friends, that the second plane hit.

By the time we got to school, all of the rooms had those TV carts in them. We were all rolling with excitement, because those carts usually meant movies and free days. But no. Not today. Today they meant the biggest turning point in modern American history. Today, they meant that the county we had grown up to love and have hope for was about to begin a downward spiral that, 15 years later, has still not seemed to level out. Today, those TVs meant that me and all of my young, naive friends, were about to have to grow up, quickly.

I remember my teacher trying to explain to us what had happened. Using words like “bad guys,” “mean people,” and the word “hijacked,” which I had never heard before. So, in my little mind, I was processing the fact that bad guys had run planes into both towers, the Pentagon, and a Pennsylvania field. A few hours earlier, my biggest worry was whether or not my mom had packed my cosmic brownie in my lunch box, but now, I was worried about “terrorists,” a word I could hardly pronounce, and war… something I hadn’t seen in my lifetime.

15 years ago, everything changed. America changed. The world changed. I would like to say that we have become stronger because of it, but we have not. The direction our government has taken this country is one I am not proud of. We have been made out as weak and vulnerable, with a president that apologized to other countries for our strength.

I will never apologize for being an American.

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