I was fifteen when I woke on September 11, 2011. In my world, planes were only hijacked in movies, and buildings only fell out of the sky during demolitions in Las Vegas, in preparation for the next big casino. So at 9:20 am, when my algebra teacher attempted to explain what happened to my world, I couldn't understand. Most of us didn't even know what the World Trade Center was. It was all so mucky.
"Your world has completely changed," my mother said that night at dinner. "Boys you know, maybe your classmates, will go off to war. It will never be the same."
Three days later, a Friday, I faked sick, curled up on the couch and watched nonstop coverage. I couldn't stop crying. But among the emotional wreckage, there were strangely beautiful moments to be found. Like men carrying strangers out of falling buildings, stories of those who had sacrificed themselves to save a friend or footage from countries all over the world who donned red, white and blue and sang God Bless America.
Yesterday I felt the same. I was sucked into hours of History channel specials, playing every bit of footage from September 11. It is still so tragic. So fresh. So devastating. And yet so hopeful.
They may have changed us. They may have ushered in a world of impossibly minuscule travel shampoos and 1 quart Ziploc bags. An era of body scans and barefoot TSA moments. They may have masterminded a period of vulnerability, in which our stomachs flutter at the thought of boarding a plane or subway.
But we still love, perhaps deeper than before. We continue to take pride in our country, our freedom and the values on which our nation was founded.
We are forever changed. But we have not lost. We now understand tenfold that every day is a gift...and in many, many ways...that means we have won.