Today is September 11. One of those days that bring back lots of memories and emotions…almost all of them not very pleasant. Most people remember what happened on this day sixteen years ago very clearly. All of the details remain startlingly clear in my memory…where I was when I first heard a plane had crashed into one of the twin towers, who I was with as I watched another plane hit the second twin tower, and the sick feeling in my stomach as I wondered what was going to happen next. I worked as a secretary at my church and watched it all unfold on tv with other church staff members. It was so surreal and scary, and I pray that our country never witnesses such horror unfold again.
But it is also a day that makes me feel proud to be an American. And besides the 4th of July, there is perhaps no other day that stirs such intense feelings of patriotism in my heart. In the midst of the destruction and evil committed by people with a deep hatred for our country, so many stories unfolded of brave men and women sacrificing their very lives for the sake of their fellow man. I think of all of the firemen and first responders who ran into a burning building knowing they were probably going to die, but doing so out of selfless love and sacrificial duty. I think of the men and women on United Flight 93 that stormed the cockpit and forced the plane to crash so that it wouldn’t be used as a weapon on another building. I think of all of the men and women who rushed to enlist in the armed forces to defend our land. Can you imagine their fear? Can you imagine the courage and bravery all of these people must have possessed? I can’t. I just can’t even imagine. And I am so incredibly grateful for them. They are heroes in my eyes. They are the epitome of love, courage, and utter selflessness. How humbled I am to know that their ultimate sacrifice was for me, for you, for us.
America isn’t perfect. As a nation, we have our sins, flaws, and shortcomings. There are many things that we could probably do better. But isn’t that each one of us? We all fall short. We all sin. We all could do better. Despite this, I believe most people have a decent nature…one that is kind and good and willing to help out a neighbor or even a stranger. Similarly, America isn’t perfect, but we have some of the most giving, generous, compassionate citizens this side of heaven. September 11, 2001 is the perfect example. As Governor George Pataki put it, “On that terrible day, a nation became a neighborhood, all Americans became New Yorkers.” So if you ever have any doubt about the heart of this country and the symbolism of our flag, remember all of the heroes of September 11. And be proud to be an American.