Tomorrow marks the ten year anniversary of a day that changed America, September 11, 2001. It is hard to believe it has been ten years. I still remember sitting in the library at South Side High School my senior year and working on a magazine drive. One of my fellow students came in the room and told us that the Twin Towers had just been struck by a plane. At the time, I didn't understand the significance of this event. It took a while for me to realize the importance of that morning. Our wonderful country had just been struck. I don't think I had ever known anything about other than peace and prosperity in America.
Of course I was bitter and angry after the attack on America. I suddenly became prejudice. It was difficult to not be nervous or suspicious around people of various races. Television was filled with footage of 9/11 and rumors of other conspiracies ran rapid. The country seemed to always be on terror alert, rather it was high or low. My life was surely forever changed.
I started EMT/Paramedic school in the fall of 2002, just one year after the attack. It was at that time I started to associate with some of the most amazing people. They were EMT's, Paramedics, and Firefighters. These people helped me further gain an appreciation for the efforts so many brave men and women put forth on 9/11 and for the following days. I learned how it felt for people to really rely on you and the service you could offer them. When people are in trouble, they often call 911. I got to be the person to respond. It was not hard to imagine how the brave men and women that responded to the attack on 9/11 felt as me and my co-workers rushed to each call. I learned the importance of my fellowman, the service they offer, and the service I can offer others, even if it is as simple as smiling at everyone.
I also gained an appreciation of human life. Not just the lives of others, but my own life. I learned that I must make the most of everyday. I am still working on this one. Life is full of surprises and there is no way to predict what it has in store for us or our loved us. Thus, appreciate each and every day. Live your life to the fullest. Love yourself. Let others know you appreciate them and love them. Be grateful. Finally, be your best self, even when it is hard.
Finally, know what you stand for and why you stand for it. It is difficult to believe that the people who can vote this year were only eight years old when the Twin Towers were struck. They may not remember the horror Americans felt on that day. They may only vaguely remember the attack. Don't stand for something because others stand for it. Stand for something because you have questioned it and researched it. Stand for something because it is part of who you are, not who others want you to be.
Hopefully we will all take a moment tomorrow and remember. Remember what it means to be an American. Remember the brave efforts of those who gave their lives to help others ten years ago. Remember the families who lost loved ones ten years ago. Remember the soldiers who have and will continue to fight for our freedom. Remember how fragile life is. And most of all, remember to be grateful for everything good life has to offer.