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September 11th is a day I'll never, ever forget

September 11, 2001 marks a day many of us will never forget.

For me, it's the day I grew up.

I had turned 21 years old just a month before the September 11th attacks.

My memory isn't the best and I can't recall a lot but September 11 is one day I'll never forget. I will always remember where I was and what I was doing on that day.

I remember the morning of that day fairly well. I was a junior at East Carolina University and had a fairly early class that morning. I woke up and got online (we had dial up back then!). I saw several things pop up on my computer about the Twin Towers but at that moment, it was still early and no one really knew what was going on. I scanned the headlines and made my way to my classes. When I left for class, only one plane had hit the Twin Towers but by the time I arrived to class, both planes had hit, in addition to a third plane that had hit the Pentagon. A fourth crashed in Pennsylvania.

When I got to school, I immediately noticed campus was different, very different. Instead of the usual bustling about, students made their way to and from class, almost in zombie-like states. Many students were on the phone, some were crying while others had a bewildered look on their face.

I went ahead and got my morning coffee and made my way to class, all the while wondering what had happened. It was in my first class that I found out what had happened. Terrorists had attacked America.

Many of my classmates had family in New York and were terrified of what had become of their loved ones. No one could reach family and they were panicked.

Class ended up being cancelled that day and I made my way home.

I found myself driving home with tears in my eyes. I don't remember much after that except that I was very confused.

In my carefree, 21-year-old mind, America was the home of the brave, land of the free and no one could touch us. To think otherwise devastated my young mind.

I vaguely remember making two phone calls that day but I can't remember when they were made. One was to Allen, who at the time, was just a friend who soon became a boyfriend, who later became my husband. I remember talking to him about what happened and being so sad but really not understanding why. He tried to comfort me but he didn't know what to say either.

My dad was working in Raleigh at the time and was staying there during the week so I called him to see if he could offer any insight. He couldn't. For the first time in my existence, my dad didn't have an answer for me.

All I remember him saying was that there were evil people in the world.

I watched the news over and over again, the planes crashing into the towers in New York, the fires, people falling and jumping out of the building, police and fire running to the scene while everyone else ran away.

No one really understood. Today, I'm not sure we still have answers we want. We probably never will.

But September 11, 2011, is a day that is forever etched in my mind. It's a day I realized what people are capable of, both good and bad. It's not about the terrorists and what they did. To me, it's about the firefighters, the police officers and others who gave their life. They are the ones I try to focus on each anniversary.

But I also remember the victims, the people who were just going about their daily business that day.

Today marks 18 years that our country changed, and has continued to change, drastically. With everything going on in our country today, I hope the 18th anniversary will serve as a reminder of not only what America lost that day but what America gained.


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