I remember the morning well. I was drying my hair in my bathroom before what I thought was going to be a normal day of high school. Then my mom walked in–ran in, more accurately.
“Melissa, come look at the TV.”
She ran out just as quickly as she came in, and I followed with trepidation, not entirely knowing what to expect.
Emblazoned on the TV was what looked like a scene from an action movie–a massive hulk of a building engulfed in flames. Initially, I thought it was indeed a movie, but then the horror dawned on me as I realized the full reality.
I was 16 years old that year, a junior in high school. “Terrorism” was not part of my everyday vernacular. But, I knew enough about the world to know that something absolutely heinous had occurred.
I had visited the Twin Towers a mere year before, on a choir trip to sing at Carnegie Hall. Even now, I remember standing between the Towers to take a picture. I walked around, marveling at architecture we only dream about in Phoenix, having no idea that a year later, the world would change drastically.
On Sept. 11, 2001, I walked into a brave new world. I watched from my desk in History class as the 2nd tower collapsed. I watched from my desk in French class as President Bush gave his address. I watched from my desk in College Algebra as world leaders aligned with us in solidarity and sympathy. And I watched, every day from then until now, our planet morph in extreme and sometimes scary ways.
My mom often tells me of her life growing up in small-town Wisconsin, and I admit I get jealous and wish sometimes that I had grown up in a simpler time. Could I bring children into a world like this? Can I fight the fear of living in a world where people are so callous and careless with the lives of others? Can I, a 28-year-old girl, fresh out of college, really make a difference in a world that is so complex and often perilous?
I think I could. I think we all could. If “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” as Burke said, then a good course of action is to fill the earth with good people. We need good parents, good families, and good communities filled with good people. We need God, and we need to let go of hate and hubris.
That starts with me.
And, it starts with you.
We live in fearful times, but we do not have to be fearful people. That’s one of the legacies of 9/11. When we were knocked down, we got right back up. And, though we’ve stumbled in many ways, we never gave in, gave up, or were ever willing to sit back and let evil take the victory.
It’s interesting to me that yesterday was National Suicide Prevention Day. Yesterday was a day to help people know that they’re not alone, that they can persevere in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. And today? Today, we look back at how we did persevere, and how we made it through one of the most difficult times in American history.
We stood up and let our voices be heard. We mourned, and remembered, and still remember those who came before us. We remember the sacrifices made on our behalf, and we look ahead, hopeful for a bright future.
We persevere into whatever may come.
Of all the lessons 9/11 taught me, I’m most grateful for that one.
This commentary originally appeared at ThoughtfulWomen.org and is reprinted here with permission.
Photo credit: 9/11 photos (Creative Commons)