Eleven years ago today: I woke up in a one horse, 2,384 population town in Southern Washington. It literally consisted of two gas stations, a few schools, and a country cafe. I woke up excited for the second week of eighth grade at a new school (I had been home-schooled up until then).  I woke up not knowing that two really tall towers known as the World Trade Center even existed, where the pentagon was located, or that there were such things as terrorists. I woke up, like much of the nation’s children, naive and unprepared.

Living here in Washington, as well as having most of my family on the Western side of the United States,  I really couldn’t comprehend the devastation, the tragedy, and the panic that was taking place in these places unfamiliar to me. I knew that people were crying, and that what happened was awful, but that was the extent of my understanding.

I watched the television at school, and at home, in complete bewilderment.  Confused, and not sure what I felt, or what I was supposed to feel. And while I know now that bad things had happened in this country during my lifetime prior to 9/11, (Columbine, terrorist attacks, China-US incident, etc.), up until that day, I had never known anything other than the American dream: a warm bed, a loving family and a good economy. But then again, up until that point, I had never seen true patriotism either.

I realized that day that heroes exist in real life. They are the people who rise up from the death and ashes surrounding us, step up, and do something, despite the risk to their own well-being. I realized that what makes a hero isn’t the feats that he or she accomplish, but the sacrifice that he or she makes in attempt to do what is right. From the emergency service workers to the civilians who volunteered their time and labor, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

My oldest sister was already sworn in to the U.S. Air Force when President Bush declared war on terrorism. I remember that while the family was worried sick, she didn’t bat an eye. She was confident that what she was doing the right thing, and that was when it finally clicked in my mind that our brothers and sisters fighting in our armed forces are the most dedicated heroes of all.

Every year I come to grips more and more with what happened on that horrific day in 2001. While I’m still learning, I have a much more profound respect for all that happened on September 11, 2001 and all those who stepped up and put their lives on the line, and continue to put their lives on the line every day. And to each and every one of those brave individuals, both alive and passed, I say “thank you”.

I was only 13 when evil temporarily took over this nation. But I was able to recognize that this evil could not stay, because evil can not thrive when one nation, under God joins hands and hearts in prayer and service. It is when we are pushed to the extreme, that our true colors shine strong and bright.  It has been eleven years, but if we reach out to our fellow countrymen/women with that same love that we felt on September 11, 2001, we will find that once again, we are capable of accomplishing anything.

God bless America.


©Packing Pretty, Grace McKee 2012