It’s been 12 years since America faced the devastating attacks of September 11, 2001. While I was only a freshman in high school, I will forever remember that day. I remember being fixed to the television in Mrs. Van Slyke’s choir class watching the second tower fall and wondering what would happen next. I remember having immense gratitude knowing that my dad had come home early from a business trip to New York the night prior and was back safe in Virginia. I remember wondering if my friends’ parents who worked in the Pentagon were okay. I remember that night writing in my journal as a 14-year-old girl uncertain about America’s future.
It seems that every September 11, my appreciation for being born in a free county swells within my heart, and I am recommitted to living each day with purpose. This increase of gratitude and recommitment come as a result of remembering – remembering how grateful I am to be an American and to be alive.
Sadly, however, it seems by September 15 of each year, instead of focusing on my gratitude for the opportunity to work, worship, and live as I please, I am frustrated by the DC tourists standing on the left-side of the metro escalator clogging my commute (the unspoken rule is stand on the right, walk on the left); I am annoyed that by the time I actually get to work, my hair is frizzy from the DC humidity; I am bothered that there aren’t more lines open at my local grocery store; and I could go on.
What happened? Why am I so frustrated by these little things? What happened is I forgot. I forgot that I am privileged to work in our nation’s capital, a place some individuals can only dream of visiting; I forgot that I am lucky to be alive and that hair frizziness is a sign that I get another day to live; I forgot that not all people have access to food. I forgot to be grateful because I didn’t remember what I was grateful for.
Throughout our careers and throughout our lives, we will all face professional or personal tragedies that will bring us low and remind us to be grateful. It is in those moments, I believe we are our best selves because we are forced to count our blessings to keep us afloat. The challenge for each of us is to remember how blessed we are, even after time lessens the sting of tragedy.
Stronger than the sadness I felt on September 11, 2001 was the joy and pride I felt as we the American people became kinder to one another in the days following. We joined together in the love of this great nation. We didn’t define ourselves by our race, religion, or political party. We only used one word to define us – American. We were Americans. My hope is that this day and every day we take the time to remember how privileged we are. For in remembering we will find the courage to move forward and feel the warmth of gratitude.
I would love to hear what you are grateful for this day. Please leave a comment below!