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How could I forget? I was 15 years old, heading into school late from a dentist appointment. My mother and I heard something on the radio, but it was confusing. There was an attack? It may not be an unfamiliar statement now, but it was short and disconnected then.

The school day was long and blurry. The teachers wouldn't let us watch the news on the TV monitors, and there was an erie unspoken feeling of mystery of who may have lost someone that day. Students started trickling out little by little as the mystery began to unfold. Something changed in me that day. I cannot articulate it entirely, but I can say that it was the first time I genuinely recognized my citizenship. Still young and foolish but very aware that our country was going to be different.

September 11th was tragic, heart wrenching, and still is. But, it revealed the very fibers of Americans and of humanity. Under the fire and ash revealed heroes and bravery. We ached for it and were comforted by it. Men and women risking their all to save another without hesitation. In the eye of an unsuspected tornado, our freedoms shined forth, and our pride could be felt across the universe: all because of our beautiful courageous men and women.

Weeks later, it started to be clear,  our country, as a whole, needed healing. We needed each other,  we needed to unite, and we did. Amidst the pain was beauty. I thank my heroes, who in the face of evil did not back down. I thank my countrymen for joining forces in standing up for our freedom. I thank the NYFD,  NYPD, and the first responders for sacrificing their lives to protect and defend us. I thank the volunteers who lent their hands to helping, aiding, and giving. I thank the people that flooded the streets with prayers. There are so many brave men and women that I owe my gratitude. My prayers are to you all, especially to those who lost their loved ones, and my prayers go out to our country, as we are still healing. I am proud to be an American. We are fighters. We will never forget.

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Photo credit: Reuters
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