Written By: Christina Etchberger

Photo of One World Trade Center by Christina Etchberger

Do you remember where you were September 11, 2001? I do. I was a student in class, taking notes in my notebook, when suddenly it went from a lesson about math to my principal telling us that a plane hit one of the Twin Towers in New York City. We were all in shock and didn’t fully understand the weight of this event. We were now a part of a lesson in history that I later had to teach to my students who never lived this infamous day I will never forget.

Early that same morning my Dad was scheduled to go on a business trip and fly that day, and for some reason even after so many other business trips, something felt wrong. I felt fear, anxiety, and a sense of urgency to told him not to go. Desperate to have him stay. He still had to leave for the airport, and I just had to trust that my father would return home safely.

Many people left their homes that morning, like it was just another day. Children went to school, families did their morning routines, rush hour was just another headache, and our men and women of the workforce were clocking in to their jobs anticipating the everyday stresses to come with any typical work day. Planes hijacked. Destruction. Lives lost. The nation shaken with fear and disbelief. Our country forever changed.

My father never got on his scheduled plane, but other men and women did and never got to return home to their loved ones. Civilians, military, police officers, firefighters, paramedics, medical personnel, clergy. Do you remember? I do. Heroes on the planes, in the buildings, on the the ground. All heroes then, and still we forget to honor what their sacrifice meant then and now. Many years have gone by, and it seems a day of respectful reflection has turned much of the media using the tragic video footage and heartbreaking photos of loss of life and chaos to simply use as a filler for news content with no real heart and respect for that day and those people we are supposed to honor.

Do you also remember the people, civilian and service member alike, running back into the buildings to save who they could, tirelessly dragging people out of the rubble, and in the end flying our flag to show we will rebuild and never forget? Even through all the tragedy we stood together.

Photo of the 9/11 Memorial By: Christina Etchberger

Liberty. Duty. Honor. Family. Home. Our country and all it represents. Like any family that cares for each other, we showed up for one another. The people of our great nation banded together no matter our differences. I had never seen so many American flags flying free in the neighborhoods, schools, and all across the United States. No one was going to bring us down. America was truly united, even after all of that heartache and loss. I was proud of my family: America.

Photo Taken of One World Trade Center and 9/11 Memorial and Museum By: Christina Etchberger

Where is our country now? Our nation is like our home. We are family. No matter our race, ethnicity, gender, creed, age, or sexual orientation, we are all in this together. Are we a family that is broken? If we are, do we want to be fixed? Is our lack of love and respect for our neighbor causing us to fail as a nation? Yes, we are wounded. There is nobody else to blame but ourselves. Take ownership. You, me, us. We need to work on this as a family.

“One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty, and justice for ALL.”

We as a nation will continue to fight against injustice, support and protect the rights of all people, but we must never forget we cannot do any of this without the sacrifices and help of our first responders and service members.

Just like I remember the sacrifices my family made to help keep me safe, cared for, and loved throughout my childhood, so should we never forget what our first responders and service members were then and who they are now.

Our military, firefighters, police officers, still have a duty to protect and serve. They did then, and they still do now. There will always be people who make bad choices that have either ruined their relationships with family, compromised the integrity of their profession, and some who have even preyed on the vulnerable who truly trusted them. This is true about any person in any profession or family. There are bad people, but there are many who are good.

No matter who wants to tarnish the honorable mission of our first responders and service members, whether it be the few dishonorable members themselves or us as a nation choosing to forget who are the first ones we call when we are in need.

So many of our brothers and sisters in the line of duty lost their lives or peace of mind after 9/11. Men and women continue to choose to protect and serve, despite the risk and danger of the job. It’s not for the money, the fame, or status. It is so we can wake up in the morning like it is any other day.

This is not a call to end our nation’s conversation about racial injustice, or call out people who do wrong. I simply want everyone to take a moment to remember where we have been, who we are now, and where we want to go together-a nation with a history of rebuilding after one of the most tragic days in our history, that needs to come together now or we will be forever broken.

We need each other, so let’s join together and learn how to be a family again.

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