Sunday, September 11, 2011

A 9/11 Tribute: United We Stand

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I sat on my bed in my pajamas barely able to eat my Cheerios as I watched the twin towers crumble on the TV screen in my dorm room. I was one month into my freshman year at Illinois State University and I will never forget that moment and the overwhelming feelings of fear and uncertainty. I will also never forget the days following 9/11 when people across the nation let go of their differences and stood together as one community to honor the fallen and promise those who attempted to destroy us that we would rise from these ashes.

ROTC 2001 (that's me in the middle)
But what I will really never forget is how quickly life returned to business as usual, especially for people like me who didn't lose a parent, a sibling, a son, or a daughter on that day and didn't send a family member off to war in the months and years that followed it. Many of our personal bubbles were never directly impacted, and being that far removed from the scene of the crime and its aftermath makes it that much easier to forget that we still owe something to all those whose lives were changed forever on 9/11/01 and those who have put their lives on the line every day since.

Over 2500 people died that day, and that doesn't even include the additional men and women who have died while serving our country over the past 10 years. Sure, we can express our condolences and show our support with bumper stickers on our cars, American flags outside our homes, and ribbons in our trees, but we owe them more than that. For the people who lost their lives, the children who lost a parent, the spouses who lost their partners, the soldiers who went to war, and all the men and women in uniform who continue to risk their lives to ensure the safety of our nation and it's people, we owe them more than "thank you for your service" or "sorry for your loss."

We owe them the knowledge that our freedoms are not taken for granted and that no one's death was in vain. We owe it to them to stop complaining about trivial things like the length of a red light or the line at the bank; to reject the cultural shift toward attitudes of entitlement; to promote equality so every American can enjoy the same freedoms; to maintain our unity with simple gestures and common courtesies; to be kind to one another and help those in need; and to choose love, compassion, and forgiveness over hate, anger, and revenge. Most of all, we owe it to them to say the Pledge of Allegiance; to remove our hats, cover our hearts, and sing our nation's anthem; and to keep patriotism alive.

Proud of you, Mike!
To all those who lost a loved one in the 9/11 attacks or the war that followed, we remember you. To all those who continue to protect and serve our nation (including my little brother who enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 2010), we thank you. And to every American, may we honor those who have died and those who proudly serve with hearts of compassion, words of kindness, and actions that send a constant reminder to the rest of the world that we are America and "united we stand" indeed.

God Bless the USA, today and always.

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