Twenty Years Later, We Can Still Learn Lessons from 9/11 Attacks

NEW YORK, USA - Apr 29, 2016: Breezy Point 9/11 Memorial, Queens, NY. Platform contains 29 glass etchings for each of the community members lost on 9/11 and a cross shaped piece of steel from WTC.

What do you say about a day such as 9/11? It’s a day that brought out both the worst and best in humanity.

I feel a little embarrassed to admit this, but I didn’t realize the magnitude of what had happened until hours later. I remember my teacher at the time being passed a note at about 9:30 a.m., reading part of it aloud before tailing off. That’s really the bulk of what I knew until I got home from school that day.

Some teachers had their students watch live coverage of what was going on, but I think the teachers I had throughout the course of the day were simply trying to protect us. As a naive 14-year old freshman at Warren Area High School, my biggest concern was that football practice was canceled that day.

I got home that day with my sister, a year my senior and our mother had the TV on showing exactly what was going on. My brother was just four years old and obviously didn’t grasp the magnitude of what was going on. My mom and sister knew more about what was going on than me when I got home, but it didn’t take me very long to realize the horror of what had unfolded.

My dad got home from work not long after, and I just remember us being glued to the TV the rest of the night and our parents trying to impress upon us what had just happened. The horrific scenes of planes hitting buildings is something that I’ll never forget or unsee.

Politics aside, I remember President Bush addressing the nation that night and couldn’t help but marvel at the strength he showed at that moment. It’s as if he knew exactly what a grieving nation needed to hear. And we had heroes, many of them, step up in what could only be described as the worst of times. For that, I am a grateful American.

In the days, weeks, and months that followed, I remember vividly how we came together as a country. As a sports geek, I recall all the tributes, especially those with the Mets and Yankees that still give me chills. Because I believe in many ways sports are an ultimate uniter and healer.

It’s a day I and every other American will never forget.

Call me an eternal optimist, but I think we can get back to the unity that we showed in the time after the worst terrorist attack ever committed on U.S. soil. I believe, despite the current differences plaguing our country, that we are not nearly as divided as we all think.

Yes, that was a dark day, but I believe good also came out of it. And I believe we can take a lesson from it even today, 20 years later. Let’s respect each other’s differences and stand united once again. I believe with my whole heart that we can and are capable of that and I hope everyone reading this does too.