In the summer of 2001, I woke up from a terrifying dream. I was driving with my Dad through a narrow street in a city area. All of a sudden, the street exploded into flames. As we continued driving I listened to the chaos around me. I watched entire homes be consumed in the flames. What horrified me the most in this dream was watching people leap from their homes, screaming, to their deaths. I woke up crying at the horror I saw. Just a month later, I watched such an event happen live on television on a normal September Tuesday morning.
All of us clearly remember where we were when we first heard the news. I was only eleven years old and watched the news all day learning all I could about what was happening on the other side of the country, watching news clips of office workers falling to their deaths from the World Trade Centers. As the day wrapped up, I approached my Dad in his bedroom where he was working. He told me, “Son, this is a day you are going to remember for the rest of your life.”
Since then, I have visited where the World Trade Centers once stood and have driven past the Pentagon on the highway. I have studied much about this horrific day through books and movies and know people who have lost friends, teachers, and even family members in these attacks.
As most of you are aware, I just began an internship with Southwest Airlines in Dallas, Texas. On Monday, we spent a few hours in the lecture hall for orientation. Part of the orientation included a movie about the history of Southwest Airlines and all of the adversity it’s had to go through. One of those obstacles was 9/11 when many of us were scared to fly.
I was touched by the video that was shown of Southwest Airlines employees supporting each other during this uncertain time in the airline industry. Clips were shown of employees waving American flags in their office cubicles and on the tarmac to help calm passengers down. It moved me to tears. I have always been touched watching the country unite together to help communities in need after disgusting atrocities.
9/11 is a day I will not forget for more than one reason. I will never forget the unity I saw in my own community and in the nation. I was part of a children’s choir that was asked to sing “I’m Free” with Rick Springfield at a 9/11 relief concert at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. I didn’t understand much of what was going on as I stood there with my friends in front of thousands of people singing. But when I look back on that uncertain time, I realize just how many of us in the United States wanted to bring hope to a shaken country.
On the one year anniversary of the attacks in 2002, I was watching cartoons on PBS when a touching Verizon commercial honoring those lost in the attacks came on. I had forgotten about it till now and wanted to share it with you:
Last Friday, I visited the location of where JFK was assassinated in Dallas. At the museum inside the book depository where the alleged sniper is believed to have shot the president, a video was shown of President Kennedy giving his inaugural address on January 20, 1961. A clip was shown of President John F. Kennedy saying, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” That phrase left a lasting impact on me.
Think of how you can unite your own country by starting in your community. No country is perfect. Each has its pros and cons. Like John F. Kennedy said, think of ‘what you can do for your country’ that has done so much for you. Many have helped unify their nation by starting with small acts of kindness and service. You can too, today!