To Remembering 9/11
I'm willing to make a bet that you can recall the exact moment you found out about the attacks on September 11, 2001. I was in the sixth grade. I remember walking down the hall to get in the shower and my dad getting a phone call from my aunt. He sounded panicked when he asked, "What channel?" — but being so young, I was caught up in the trials and tribulations of my final year of elementary school. It wasn't until later that morning that my dad told me what had happened.
Nothing about the rest of that day was ordinary. I can still recall an eerily quiet that blanketed the city. Being raised in San Jose, California — I was used to the bustle of traffic and lived directly under the flight path for the San Jose International Airport. Traffic was light, sometimes no cars moving in the neighborhood — and not a plane to be seen or heard. It felt like a ghost town, and even at 11 years old, I knew the world would never be the same.
In the aftermath of that day, I can say that I've never felt more American. There was a sense of community that sprang to life, a communal rage that swept over the nation — yet also a feeling of hope. There were American flags on nearly every house and an immense, albeit bruised, sense of pride. First responders were shown the respect they deserve, whether they were in NYC or not.
Fifteen years later and that American pride and communal spirit has tarnished. Yes, there are stunning memorials in New York, DC and Pennsylvania, along with countless documentaries — but it seems with every passing year, the events of 9/11 and the people lost are put in a box that's just a tiny bit smaller than the year before. A great deal of these people either gave their lives to save others — or for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They deserve to be remembered, honored and cherished.
Here are five things you can do to honor the heroes, both living and passed, and the victims of September 11, terror attacks:
Visit the memorials
I have yet to visit NYC (aside from a horrible layover at JFK) but I hear that the city is amazing. I had a friend visit last summer and she shared with me her experience visiting the 9/11 memorial. Though she described it as both gut-wrenching and heartbreaking, she also called the tour beautiful and said that it really captured the essence of that day and the aftermath.
The standout memory I have from the pictures she showed me is a wall of blue squares, each a slightly different shade than the next — this wall was created by asking people what color the sky was that day. I honestly still get goosebumps. I hope to be able to make some time to head to the east coast and pay tribute at each of the three sites.
For more information on the 9/11 Memorials, please visit their sites:
9/11 Memorial (NYC) — The Museum’s 110,000 square feet of exhibition space is located within the archaeological heart of the World Trade Center site—telling the story of 9/11 through multimedia displays, archives, narratives and a collection of monumental and authentic artifacts.
Flight 93 Memorial (PA) — Because of the quick and determined actions of the passengers and crew, Flight 93 was the only one of the four hijacked aircraft that failed to reach the terrorists' intended target that day. The passengers and crew showed unity, courage, and defiance in the face of adversity. Today the National Park Service, its volunteers, and its partners work to honor their actions and to try to understand more fully the legacy of Flight 93 and the other events of 9/11.
The Pentagon Memorial (DC) — The Pentagon Memorial was created to remember and honor those family members and friends who are no longer with us because of the events of September 11th, 2001 at the Pentagon. Elegant and simple, the Pentagon Memorial serves as a timeline of the victims’ ages, spanning from the youngest victim, three-year-old Dana Falkenberg, who was on board American Airlines Flight 77, to the oldest, John D. Yamnicky, 71, a Navy veteran, also aboard Flight 77 that morning.
Raise an American flag
The flag symbolizes many things — the sacrifices made to create and defend our country, the pride in being an American and for me personally, the hope for a better tomorrow. By raising a flag on your house, or even simply sticking one in a flower pot or lawn, you're showing your support for the American people and heroes as a whole. Seeing a neighborhood lined with flags is inspiring, empowering and emotional. You can pick up a small flag from any hardware store, or even Target — and I urge you to pop one in your yard today to honor those that fought so hard to save lives and defend ours.
Pray the best way you know how
Look, I'm not a religious person. I believe in bits and pieces of religions from all over the world and the teachings of science. That being said, I still pray. I don't know who my prayer is directed to, if anyone or anything, or if I'm just putting those vibes into the universe. Either way, I feel better and hope that my positive thoughts reach the people that need them for strength in difficult times. Whether you believe or not, take some time to think about those that fought so hard that day, those that battled in the wars protecting our freedoms and those that lost their loved ones — I can't say for sure, but I'd like to think that it means something to them.
Donate to an organization benefiting 9/11 victims
Despite being a decade and a half after the events, there are still people in need of assistance. I know all the words to the "poor college student/recent graduate" song, but even I can cut back a few trips to Starbucks, or skip a weekly Target trip to be able to contribute a little something to these folks. If you're really low on funds, maybe write a handwritten letter to one of the victims, heroes or their families.
I found these three great organizations if you're willing to donate:
Wounded Warrior Project — "Hundreds of thousands of injured warriors have fought for our freedom after the tragic events on September 11, 2001. Your generous, tax deductible donation to Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) enables us to help these warriors as they continue to rebuild their lives. Their injuries affect them for a lifetime. They need your support."
9/11 Memorial — All donations and sponsorships are dedicated to developing and sustaining the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Thank you for helping to build a lasting place for remembrance, reflection and learning for years to come. The Memorial and Museum are only possible through your support.
FDNY Foundation — The FDNY Foundation is the official non-profit organization of the New York City Fire Department, allowing the FDNY to use donations from concerned businesses, foundations and individuals to promote awareness and outreach to the public, training and support of members of the FDNY and enhanced technology and equipment to better protect all who live, work and visit New York City every year.
I can say with certainty that I will never be able to forget the events that happened on September 11, 2001 — nor do I feel anyone will. But as I previously mentioned, it seems to me as though each year that passes, we get a little more lackluster in showing our remembrance and support. I'm not saying that you need to be decked out in head-to-toe red, white and blue — but I do urge each of you to spend some time each year remembering and honoring the victims and their families. I hope that these simple ways to do so remain with you in the years to come.
I'm currently obsessed with this song. The composition is incredible, the words beatiful. I feel it's the perfect song to accompany today's post.