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What We Lost

I remember it vividly. I was in 8th grade at the time and it was early in the morning. I was in my social studies class and everything was normal, at first. Suddenly, another teacher ran in and said something I couldnít understand to my teacher. He turned on the classroom TV and the image that came up will forever be burnt into my memory: the World Trade Center towers aflame and smoke billowing out of the sides. My classmates worriedly talked with each other, our teacher was without words. I sat there, for the first time acutely aware of my own mortality. The Towers and Pentagon had been devastated and thousands had died or been injured, countless other missing. I wanted to cry or scream or just run and never look back but I just sat quietly, trying to make sense of it all.

Things worsened later that day. My friend, Fred, was raising an uproar Ė his grandmother worked in the Pentagon and he wanted to call her. The teachers refused to discuss with us what happened and told us to pretend as if nothing was out of the ordinary. Their silence did nothing to alleviate our tensions and for some, probably intensified them. There was an uneasy paranoia as we were just about 45 minutes away from Washington DC. As days went by the truth came to light. The press talked about countries that previously I had never heard of. Then-President Bush told us to go about our lives and not let the attacks change our plans. At first, I thought they were all nuts for not reacting at all. Then, as time went on, something absolutely amazing happened.

Suddenly, people were nice to one another. We were consciously aware of each otherís pain and concern. Everyone was hanging up the American flag in their yards and houses. People stood in line to donate blood en masse. Charities saw record-breaking donations. Stories of survivors who somehow made it out in time or were rescued from the rubble or who had happened to take that day off from work surfaced one after another. And I was moved to tears when the American national anthem was played at Buckingham Palace. For a few short months, it didnít matter where you were from or what you believed in; everyone was united by the common virtue of believing in the value and sanctity of human life. For a few short months, everyone was an American at heart. Sure, we were all scared and miserable, but we were together and thatís what mattered.

The question I stand up and ask 10 years after the devastating attacks is why did it take so long for us to come together and why did we lose sight of that? Why did it take the death of thousands of innocent people to make us realize how valuable human life really is? Why should it take tragedy to move people to action, to compassion, to charity, to kindness, to hope, to love? Why canít it be every single day? When we lose sight of these virtues and will to live, weíre missing the most important lesson that the days following September 11 taught us: at the end of the day, regardless of who you are or where youíre from, weíre all part of this world and we all are trying to make the best of it.

This year and in every year to come, let us make a solemn vow to those who lost their lives due to people filled with hatred and malice that we will live our lives filled to the brim with love and kindness. Let us remember and honor in a hallowed and profound way those who died and in turn, honor those that still live. No one is above or below love and corny as it may sound, the world could use a lot of it now more than ever before. For some ideas as to how we can put this into practice, hereís a short list of some ways to start:

I could go on and on. It takes effort to start a new habit, granted, but if everyone takes one step forward, weíd all end up that much closer. The day of the attacks and the days that came after prove that we can do it. We can overcome differences of race, nationality, gender, and yes, size. More important than anything else we are human and there is an inherent yet oft-overlooked beauty to that. We lost much on that September morning. We lost even more when we lost sight of what that day taught us. Never again shall we forget the people lost nor the things that they died to teach us. On that day, we were all Americans. Today, 10 years later, let us go one step further. Today, we are all human. Today, we are all here on Earth, together. And I donít care if it sounds cheesy, because itís the sort of thing those we lost would want me to say:

I love all of you and want the best for you. God bless you, your families and friends.

Written by: Jeff M.

"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education."
~Mark Twain
"A professor is someone who talks in someone else's sleep."
~W.H. Auden

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