I remember the morning of September 11, 2001 like it was yesterday.
Some friends of mine were in Europe and I was housesitting for them.
And that morning, I woke up violently ill, but decided to go into work anyway.
I lasted about fifteen minutes before I realized I needed to go home.
When I got to my friends’ house, I flipped on the TV in their living room just in time to watch the first tower crumble to the ground.
And everything changed.
For two days straight, both TVs in their house stayed on. I couldn’t bring myself to turn them off.
I remember the frantic phones calls on the afternoon of 9/11 as I tried to reach friends in Manhattan and DC. The phone lines were down in New York. It took hours to get through.
And all of it — the horror, grief, and disbelief – it is as clear to me now as it was sixteen years ago.
But what remains even clearer for me were those moments that lifted us up and united us as a nation.
President Bush declared a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance three days after the September 11th attack.
And I remember driving into Hillsborough from my office and seeing folks begin to gather for the noon-time service outside of the old courthouse.
I parked my truck and joined them.
And during the singing of “God Bless America,” I broke down. I held my face in my hands and sobbed. I could feel my legs give out.
And before I could tumble to the ground, a big, burly man in a baseball cap put his arms around me and lifted me up.
I clung to him like a child. And we wept in each other’s arms.
It is that moment that I remember every September 11th.
Not the fire and destruction. Not the horror.
No. I remember that moment when a perfect stranger held me up and wept with me.
In grief, we find comfort.
And in tragedy we find within ourselves a wellspring of strength.
We remember because who we are today – what we have become – is defined and informed by what we’ve been through in the past.
September 11, 2001 changed us forever.
And I will never forget.
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