I woke up this morning trying to figure out what the heck I could write about on a “throwback Thursday”, considering school has had me quite busy over the last couple of days. And then I realized what today was: September 11th, 2014.

I was sitting in Mrs. Bevis’ 4th grade classroom, just going about our regular schedule. Our councilor didn’t tell us what happened until school was done, (I was told it was because they didn’t want to disturb our work flow) but all us older kids new something was wrong. We noticed that all the teachers were in the teachers lounge whenever they could, they looked shocked throughout the day, they talked in hushed voices, and I caught a few wiping tears from their eyes or they would just start crying in class. Then we found out: two airplanes had been flown into the World Trade Center, another into the Pentagon, and another crashed landed in a Pennsylvania field. President Bush had declared this a terrorist attack by a radical Muslim group. Now, probably like most American 4th graders, I think the same thoughts went through all our minds: World Trade Center? Radical Muslims? Terrorist attack? What’s the World Trade Center? They FLEW the airplanes INTO the buildings? I remember the rumors and “conspiracy theories” that were floating around the bus on the way home. I also remember being very very angry that my daily afternoon cartoons (my daily educational cartoons on PBS mind you) had been cancelled due to all the news coverage of the event.

I also remember that I became fascinated and glued to the TV, watching repeat after repeat after repeat of the 911 calls, the planes flying into the WTC, etc, etc. It wasn’t because I’m a morbid person–it’s just my personality. I felt violated, even as a 9 year old, and so I wanted to find out as much as I could. My mom was very worried letting me watch the coverage, all the replays, but she let me–because she believed that I needed to know. So that night she and Dad sat down with me and my brother David and we had a long discussion about what happened. That was 13 years ago. The day America was knocked to her knees, the day that everything we ever knew was destroyed, the day our security was taken, the day the entire earth stood still.

For us that are old enough to remember, we’ll always be able to remember what it was like before 9/11–something that the next generation will have no idea. We grew up in a time when we didn’t live in fear or high security, something our kids will never know. They’ll never understand the panic that everyone felt, the nationalism that brought us together, or the aftermath–because they live in the aftermath. To them, 9/11 will be the first shot fired at Lexington and Concord, the Battle of Fort Sumter, Pearl Harbor, and JFK’s Assassination–it’s something they’ll just read about in history books. But to us, there will always be 9/11 and we’ll always remember what it was like.

To end this post, I tell a story of something that happened to me when I was in New York. We were at Ground Zero watching the construction that was happening, and it amazed me how quiet it was down there. We were over by the fire department that sits right across from the WTC. I was standing there looking at the numerous plaques that sit on the walls, when I felt something touch my hand. Looking down, I found a little girl standing beside me tugging on my hand. I smiled at her, but that smile soon turned to shock when she pointed to Ground Zero and asked, “is that where Daddy died?”

I didn’t know what to say or what to do. I looked over at where the towers once stood and then back at the little girl. I didn’t know what to say or do, so I looked around for someone connected with her. A short ways a way there stood a woman who clearly had tears rolling down her cheeks. I connected eyes with her and she nodded, and t hit me like a ton of bricks. I looked back down at the girl and asked, “How old are you?”

“I’m eight. Is this where Daddy died?”

I slowly nodded, and got down on one knee. What else could I do. Here stood a little girl, born in 2001, in the aftermath, who would never know her daddy. This I couldn’t imagine because of the relationship that my dad and I have. So I asked, “was your daddy a firefighter?” She nodded.

“Momma said he was the best.” I smiled.

Tears began to form in my eyes. “I bet he was. Yeah, this is where your daddy died. But you know what…your daddy was a hero. The biggest hero that day. He saved so many people, something you should always remember. He was a hero, and that’s something you should be very proud about.” She gave me the biggest hug (which surprised me) and then ran back to her mom, who silently mouthed to me “thank you”.

I smiled and mouthed back, “no…thank you.” Then I let the tears fall and rejoined our tour group.

So when people say things bad about that day or come up with conspiracy theories or discuss that we should have never went to war, I think about that little girl. I don’t like war, I don’t like fighting but I think about her and the thousands of kids that will never know their dad’s, mom’s, aunts, or uncles. Both from the attacks and from defending our country. So I thank them here, thank you for your sacrifice, for putting others safety before your own, for running up the stairs while everyone else was running down. For putting your life on the line in order to keep ours safe. Thank you! And may we never forget!!