It started last night.

I was on Twitter when, around 11:00 PM, things started turning somber. One hour to midnight, and the collective thoughts of the Twitterverse turned towards our national pain. It was like hearing the voices of people in support group, each one crying out from our haunted past.

I was visiting my in-laws…

I was on active duty in North Carolina…

I was at home from work, sick…

I was waiting for my husband’s flight to land…

I was pregnant…

I was frightened…

I was shocked…

I was…

I was twenty-four, barely married, sitting behind a desk that was way to big for me, symbolic of the position and responsibility I held at the time. I had the radio in my office on and the sudden break in programming – “The World Trade Center buildings have been hit!” – made long-forgotten pages in my history books suddenly spark with life.

Panic. Fear. Armaggeddon. Planes were crashing from the sky and into buildings. Planes were falling from the sky into fields. How many planes were compromised? Were our skies littered with flying missles under enemy control? Who was responsible? Why would they do this?

How many would die?

For a nation with a penchant for taking certain days and making them memorials, the sad irony of September 11th becoming a memorial against our will was powerful.

We watched the news footage, only it seemed like something from a movie, except that it happened in real life. We learned, truly learned, that there are people who despise us – not just in some figurative sense, but literally, enough so that they would willingly strap themselves inside a plane and kill innocents who were guilty of nothing more than drinking coffee and being one of us. We saw heroes run into the mouth of damnation – into the mouth of Hell – to save whom they could. Many of them perished.

Their names, along with the names of those who could not be saved, are now carved into stone, set into the ground upon which they died.

Set into the hearts of their countrymen.

My friend, Kevin Bachman, posted something on Facebook this morning that made me nod my head and tear up. It rang so true to me, because of all the things that arose out of 9/11, the most amazing thing was our national strength, our bond.

Kevin says it better:

It’s not the day itself I choose to remember but that brief window of time that followed it. Before war and division of opinion. The small time of unity when we were ‘The People’. Together. Because we grow stronger when we have to. Because the American spirit defends and helps its brothers when they are too weak. And if there is one thing to never forget, it isn’t the tragedy of our buildings crumbling at our feet, but the resolve we carry within us to lock arms and rebuild.

Of all the national holidays, today is the one with the most resonance. Unlike Hanoi, or Pearl Harbor, or Gettysburg, or Lexington, we saw this not through the eyes of history or through the lens of a camera, but in flesh-and-blood and in real time. And so today is personal. It’s painful. It’s fresh. We cannot look at our lives today without seeing the residue from those collapsed towers. The cloud of dust that swallowed Manhattan as the Towers fell has left a subtle film all over our airports, technology and politics today.

Normally, we celebrate history as being just that – history. But today our history is our present, reminding us that we might be a city on a hill, but we are not above the turmoil of this Earth.

It is the beauty of our country and our people that when we fall, we rise.

And we will continue, rising.

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