FlagIt’s hard to believe 14 years have passed since the terrorist attack in 2001.

I had been living in Charlotte for some time by then and my parents had been with me for a year. I was leading an idyllic existence and like everyone else, had no idea my world would be so radically changed that morning as I made my way to work.

I think back to air raid drills in grade school. In my child’s mind I couldn’t distinguish between practice and threat, and one evening in particular, every time I heard a plan overhead (which was quite a few times) I imagined I heard the whistle of bombs descending toward us. After what seemed like an eternity I went crying to my mother so afraid we were in danger. I assume she and other parents said something to the teachers and/or principal because very shortly after we were assured we were safe and there was nothing to fear. And I don’t remember too many drills after that.

But on 9/11 I knew for certain safety was an illusion and I felt real fear. Fear that my family and friends in New York might be harmed; fear the draft would be reinstated and my 19 year-old nephew would have to go to war; fear my two year-old godson would never know a simple and carefree childhood like mine; and worse, fear the world had gone mad.

After a little while I felt a great sense of guilt too. Guilt because I wasn’t there in the city that was my first home, helping in whatever way I could. But also guilt because I was relived I wasn’t there and that my parents were safe here with me.

We were all forever changed that day but we did not let the fear paralyze us. Instead we used it to grow stronger, a little wiser and to connect with those we love. Churches everywhere were filled to capacity as we prayed for solace, faith and signs of remaining goodness.

We came together, as families, as communities and as a country. We even came together as a world with messages and signs of solidarity from countries around the globe.

So when we say we will never forget, let us also remember what we learned about ourselves that day. How well did we keep the promises we made to ourselves and to God? That is the best way to honor the fallen.

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