A while back, I wrote an essay for one of my writing classes about an experience I had. I thought I’d share it with you all today (with a few minor edits):
The Day America wept
My hand brushed across the names, each one chiseled and engraved in granite. Glancing down the long rows, I could occasionally see a rose here and there, placed lovingly beside the name of a person enshrined and carried in a grieving heart. Looking up, I saw the Oculus, rising and taking to the sky like a white dove carrying all the burdens, sorrows, and aching hearts bound up in those carved names away to the heavens above. Below me, a fountain of water gently carried away with it the river of tears spilled over these names and buried them deep in a dark, boxlike chasm. Around me I could hear the usual bustle of the large city, with cars whizzing past and passersby talking, but I didn’t notice, for it hit me—these rows and rows of names represented people, real people with real relationships and families and feelings. And these people had died. Yet, even though I hadn’t known any of them, I felt almost as if we were related.
Earlier that day, I had seen the Statue of Liberty and walked through Ellis Island. I had experienced first-hand monuments that defined just by their existence alone what America means and what it stands for. The Twin Towers, back in 2001, had also stood as symbolic monuments of America—symbols of what hard-working, freedom-loving people can create when they have fair governments and a beautiful land to live in. But that changed on September 11—or so it had been hoped by those who wished America evil.
On that fatal day, nineteen terrorists committed four suicide missions, two of which were hijacking two commercial planes and flying them straight into the towers. The terrorists hoped to bring America down with the towers, to create such a dismayed havoc among Americans that it would take years, maybe even centuries, to fully recover from the blow dealt. That day, 2,977 people tragically died, nearly a quarter of which were emergency workers striving to save others. In one day, the number of Americans who died succeeded more than all the US soldiers who have died in the War of Afghanistan through about eighteen years of fighting.
Seeing the rows and rows of chiseled names, it struck me: so many people had died. So much blood had been shed. So many families had been affected, disrupted, diminished in number. Yet, through it all, through the rubbish and chaos, America had emerged victorious and unconquered, and the 9/11 Memorials, erected on the very spots where the Towers once rested, embody that unconquerable nature to the rest of the world. The terrorists successfully brought down two towers. Their goal was to bring America down with it, but they only succeeded in creating a new, stronger America that rose from the ashes like the Oculus, a majestic phoenix defying defeat. An America which has shown to the world, through that terrible incident, what Americans are capable of. Those names, those people who had died, had become the sacrifice for the American country. Those emergency workers—firefighters, EMTs, police officers—they had fought, bled, and died for those of us left, for those they pulled out of the flames seconds before they themselves were engulfed by the fire.
Every time I hear the national anthem sung at games and events, the hair goes up on my arms and a tingle up my spine. It is the anthem, the Statue of Liberty, the 9/11 Memorials, and so many other important monuments that remind me of what America is, and how thankful I can be to live in America. To live free, to die free, in the land of the free and the home of the brave as those people did who died on September 11 is a blessing I wish to cherish always.
This post is dedicated to those brave men and women who lost their lives on this day, 18 years ago, and to their relatives who live on without them.
They shall not be forgotten.
~Rose image by Ged Lawson @Unsplash