I was 18 and away from home for the first time. I was going on week 3 of my freshman year of college. Finally, I was adjusting and learning how to be on my own.
And then the world changed.
At the least, my world changed.
I went to class to hear that my country was under attack. I heard that people were jumping out of buildings. No one was sure what was happening. All we knew was fear ran through us. One rogue plane hit the World Trade Towers, then a second plane. A third plane crashed in Pennsylvania. I was at school in rural Pennsylvania, my family 3.5 hours drive away in NJ. My dad worked in New York City several times a month. I didn't jump to the conclusion that he could be hurt or even near this tragedy, until I saw the blinking light on my voicemail. I called my mother in a panic, but the phones were all jammed and I couldn't get through.
The large tvs in the cafeteria broadcasted crashing buildings, bloodied, ashen faces burried in rubble, panicked news casters. My mind couldn't comprehend it. UNREAL. This was a movie. This must be somewhere else. NOT MY HOME. NOT MY DAD.
I finally did get through to my mother, to find that my father, was in New York City. He was one of the many who God had spared. It's hard to understand why so many had to die and some were lucky enough to live. He was stuck in traffic, sitting in his car, frustrated that he was late for a meeting, not too far from the World Trade Center, when he saw a low-flying plane soar over his car.
When the traffic finally cleared, the tragedies had occurred. My father became a first responder, searching through the ash of charred bodies, in hopes of finding survivors. For days, he and his coworker were amongst the heroes who were in the trenches, helping, hoping and healing.
Covered in a grey film that ash of humanity, his lungs full of the ubiquitous powder, he came home exhausted and defeated. He didn't talk about what he saw or what he did.
And me, the teenager, who almost lost her dad, I was changed. For my life up to this point, I lived in a bubble. Nothing bad happened to me or those close to me. We were safe. For the first time in my life, I felt fear. I felt vulnerable, like so many people feel everyday throughout the world.
I was one of the lucky ones, as so many people that day did lose their fathers. They lost mothers, brothers, fiances and children. And yet, this is an ordinary day for so many people.
I was encouraged by the outpouring from other nations. Countries sent condolences and well wishes for our broken nation. I wondered if we ever did the same. How many times has America cared about another nation? Do we mourn just as much when a bomb explodes in Israel or a man with a machete terrorizes a town in Africa?
Since 2001, the world has changed tremendously. Wars have been fought. Regimes have changed. I'm no longer a teenager. I am now a grown woman with a child.
I am so thankful to still have my father. I think of the past 15 years and all he would have missed: my graduations, my wedding, the birth of his grandchild. I think God for his life. I ask God for healing for those families who lost loved ones on 9/11.
I ask God for peace and restoration for all countries and all peoples. Not just America.
I will always remember that day, as many Americans will. I hope that I can use my memory as a force to bring change for the future, so that the dark memories may become bright dreams of tomorrow.