I remember awaking sharply on Sept. 11, 2001 to the shrill ring of the telephone by my bedside. My brother Jeff, then a sophomore at Fordham University in the Bronx, NY was on the phone: “Jess! Turn on the news! The World Trade Center has been attacked!”

I instantly leapt out of bed, almost smacking my forehead on the bunk bed that hung over me. With the blurriness of sleep still evident in my eyes, I stumbled and turned on the television. Every channel on the television flickered with horrible colors of orange and red flames mixed with thick gray smoke.

I watched in terror as the two skyscrapers tumbled to the ground one by one. My head sank to my hands as I trembled with the thoughts of my father and my uncle.

My father, who worked in the city, did not go into work that day-an act of fate that I am forever thankful for. My uncle Robert Miller, however, worked on the 87th floor in Tower II. After the first attack, he attempted to exit. Without even knowing what was to come, he phoned his wife and was connected to voicemail.

“Something has hit Tower I. They think it’s a small plane,” he said. “Don’t worry, I’m okay, and I’m leaving the building. Gotta go.” Robert, however, never did make it out, and to this day, his remains have not been identified.

I remember tears dripping down my face as I waited for a phone call saying, “They’ve found him! He’s alive!” That phone call never came, and prayers and support from my friends and family were the only things I could count on to keep me strong.

Remaining close with my family, we cried and held each other tighter than we ever had before. The grieving process did not seem like it would end. The bond between family and friends continues to grow immensely, as it is unfortunate that death is often a reminder of how thankful one must be to be alive and to be healthy.

The events of Sept. 11 have affected everyone directly or indirectly, and the physical and emotional supports of our communities empowered us as a nation to move forward and to reach towards a brighter future.

President Bush addressed the nation on the night of Sept. 11, 2001 in response to the tragedies, and his words have stuck with me. “Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts…Freedom itself was attacked this morning by faceless cowards, and freedom will be defended,” Bush said.

Freedom to this day continues to be defended, as our soldiers fight abroad to preserve that freedom – acts of heroism that do not go unnoticed nor without amplitudes of national appreciation. The second anniversary has approached, and emotions of sadness and anger struggle with the powers of admiration and gratitude.

When I think of heroism and bravery, I think of our stronghold in the military, our valiant police officers and our courageous fire fighters, as well as my warmhearted uncle and all those killed in the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania. I think about the families torn and the children without parents. Shattered and broken, we can overcome the terror and sadness we feel.

Everything happens for a reason. Illness, injury, love, loss, and moments of true greatness or stupidity all occur to test us. Our experiences create who we are, and we learn from all of them. These past two years have taught me that no matter what happens or how bad it seems today, life goes on, and it will be better tomorrow.

We must live everyday to its fullest, and appreciate every moment. As easy as it is to wipe away our tears, there is nothing that can wash away the memories we hold inside. For those that I lost – my uncle, my friends’ parents – and for those of whom I do not know personally – they are my heroes…they keep me strong, and they will be remembered forever in my mind and heart.

~In remembrance of Sept. 11, 2001 – We will never forget. God Bless America.~

Be sure to look for more September 11 commentary in Online Exclusives.

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.