September 11 – The first watch

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On a sunny September morning six years ago, every American’s life changed forever. What began in our minds as a tragic, horrible airplane accident changed instantly with the sudden appearance of the second aircraft. Then the third, and fourth. Our blood ran cold, and chills ran down our backs. America, our beautiful America, had been attacked in the most bestial way.

We watched transfixed, and heard the stories. There might be other planes. The military was on full alert. We were confused, and we grieved for the victims in the planes, in the towers and in the Pentagon.

Even as we struggled to find our place, we felt something palpable begin to emerge – a sense of community. Where the evil minds tried to rip us apart and throw us into dispair, instead we came together and marched forward arm-in-arm.

The President comforted us and stood tall when we needed him most. The military sent ships and planes to patrol our borders and reassure us. We were inspired by the images of heroes all around us. American flags were everywhere. Everywhere.

Later, as we collected our thoughts, our shock turned to resolve. The day after the attacks, the Pentagon went back to work – while the building still burned – to show the world that we would not be deterred in defending our principles. The President told us, “Be ready.”

A few days after commercial jets were allowed to fly again, I had to travel across the country. As I sat in the plane, I tried to fight the anxiety that sat heavy in my gut – every passenger was a potential skyjacker. But then two men with military-style haircuts sat down in front of me, one on either side of the aisle. One leaned over to the other and said, “Who has the first watch?” I smiled and a sense of peace went through me. I knew right then that we were going to be OK – as a nation and a people.

Don’t ever forget that day six years ago. And don’t ever forget the men and women who are out there right now fighting to protect us.

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  1. Sept. 11 is, first and foremost, my mom’s birthday. She’s been celebrating it a lot longer than the current bunch of terrorists have been alive, so that’s how I think of it. That said, I’ll always remember where I was and what I was doing when I learned of the attacks.
    I was in a math classroom at the local high school, working as a teacher’s aide. The teacher and I were circulating in the room helping students with their work, when someone (student, staff, I don’t recall) threw open the door and told us to turn on the TV. The teacher reached up and switched it on and I watched as smoke poured from a tall tower.
    I thought, how in the world can an airplane hit a building? How can an airplane accidently run into a building? Then I watched, horrified, as a second airplane flew into a second tower. At that moment, I realized that this was no accident, and I gasped, “We’re under attack.”

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