American spirit invincible

Published 10:21 am Saturday, September 10, 2011

I was staring at the television and saw the second plane come in from the right side of the screen when it slammed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

Normally, I wouldn’t have been home at 9 o’clock on a Tuesday morning. But in my final semester of college, I had four accounting courses and a managerial economics course on my schedule, and I was struggling to keep up in a couple of my classes.

So that morning I stayed home to do some extra work for a class that had been giving me fits. I had the news on the television in the other room, and at about 8:45, I heard someone mention a plane having crashed into one of the Twin Towers.

I hustled in to see what was going on, and so there I was in front of the television at 9 a.m., listening to the newscasters who were speculating that a small plane had veered off course and accidentally flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

It really didn’t look that bad at the time, all things considered, and I remember thinking in that moment that it was pretty remarkable there hadn’t been more accidents in New York with planes hitting buildings.

When I saw the second plane fly in from the right of the screen, I think I knew what was going on before it even hit the front of the second building. When the fireball came blazing out the backside of Number 2 World Trade Center, I wanted to be sick. All I could do was sit and stare in horror and total disbelief.

The terrorists and assassins who attacked us that day had one goal, which was to forever change America and steal from us those things that we hold most dear. They wanted us to live in fear of the next attack, to cower down and hide, to change the way we lived our lives.

And in the days and weeks that followed, we probably did just a little. We were confronted with an enemy we didn’t know and couldn’t see, and we were forced to learn about things that were previously inconceivable.

We learned about anthrax attacks and color-coded terror warnings and shoe bombers and the Taliban. We learned about Osama bin Laden and Muslim extremists and the war on terror. And we learned, quite painfully, that the most powerful nation in the history of humankind, once seemingly invincible, was vulnerable to attack.

But what those who sought to destroy us that day should have known, but clearly didn’t, was that what makes this country so great is something that can’t be taken away by hijacking planes and knocking down buildings and taking innocent lives.

They didn’t know that the things they hate most about us, our freedom to live as we choose and to worship, or not worship, a God they don’t know and our willingness to fight for the ideals that this country were founded on, would fuel the spirit which they reawakened in us that would ultimately lead to their own defeat.

By trying to take from us those things that matter to us most, they have steeled our resolve to never let them slip from our grasp.

I have, honestly, never been more scared than I was that day or in the days that immediately followed. I wept openly for those who were lost. I feared the possibility that other attacks would follow.

I worried for my friends in New York and my family living a few short miles from the Pentagon and Washington, D.C.

But despite the fear and the grief and the uncertainty caused by the events of that day, I had never been more proud to be an American.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I woke up to all of the things that I had taken for granted, and in the days and weeks and the 10 years that have followed, I have become infinitely more aware of the blessings that have been bestowed upon me and of how fortunate I am to live in this great country.

I still struggle when revisiting the images of that day and the tremendous pain on the faces of those who suffered so much loss. But I know now, in a way I never did before, that although planes can be hijacked and buildings knocked down and innocent lives taken, the thing our enemies despise most in us is the one thing that they can’t destroy. The American spirit remains invincible.