The conversation often begins like this: “I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom and curling my hair…” The news was barely audible in the background. I glanced over my shoulder to see if the weather report was playing yet, but what I saw was smoke. Not just your average house fire smoke, but smoke that I’d only seen before in Hollywood movies. I moved closer to read the “Breaking News,” caption at the bottom of the screen, and then I saw a plane curve around the enormous skyscraper and collide with the solid structure. It wasn’t a special effect. It was real. The sixth grade version of myself learned a new term that day: “Terrorism.” Fear, confusion, and panic filled the hallways at school. Teachers stopped their lessons and instead we all watched the news. I heard whispers and comparisons made to Pearl Harbor and immediately made the connection to the three-letter word that we all have come to know intimately sense: WAR.
Most of us remember the horrendous scenes of people leaping from burning buildings, others screaming for their loved ones, chaos filling the streets, smoke from a Pennsylvania field and a view of a split pentagon. The horror that shook the world that day will never be forgotten. Yet in the midst of the chaos, a people arose from ashes and deflated the efforts of cowards.
I didn’t know him then, but a fifteen year-old boy watched the same news report. After that day at school, he went home and made a wooden box that now sits in my garage. Inscribed in the wood: “September 11, 2001, Never Forget.” Adjacent to the inscription is a sticker of an eagle and an American flag. Two years later with the signature of his mother, that same boy signed a line that committed him to become a member of a force that would fearlessly oppose those whose weapon is fear. I married that boy five years later.