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It was 8:46 AM on September 11, 2001, the moment that changed my life forever. It was the beginning of the deadliest day in U.S. history. Everyone remembers where they were. I was a barely 23-year-old Texan living in New York City. I moved to New York to experience the electric energy and unique opportunities the city had to offer.
That morning I was working at Merrill Lynch on the top floor of the World Financial Center, adjacent to the World Trade Center, when I heard the loudest explosion.
I ran to the window and saw the unfathomable right before my eyes. I was stunned. There was a gaping hole in the upper portion of 1 World Trade Center (North Tower). Dark smoke and massive flames billowed from the tower as silver chunks of metal from the building’s siding floated through the air like confetti. Rolls of toilet paper, countless sheets of computer paper and other debris showered the sky.
Evil terror continued to unfold as we saw a second airplane fly into 2 World Trade Center (South Tower). We were under attack. But how was this happening? We lived in the United States. Things like this didn’t happen here. I felt like I was watching a terrifying nightmare except that it was all real.
As time passed the sight became more gruesome as innocent civilians desperately jumped to their deaths from the upper floors of the World Trade Center. The carnage was horrifying.
I witnessed the best and worst of humanity that day.
Angelic warriors rose to the occasion.
Countless lives were saved because of the heroic efforts of the FDNY, NYPD, and Port Authority Police. While most were running away to escape death and horror, they were running toward the danger to rescue lives.
Several courageous, selfless New Yorkers in the towers died because they stayed behind ensuring everyone else made it out safely first.
A group of passengers onboard United Flight 93 bravely banded together as they fought back against the hijackers in an attempt to regain control of the airplane. Acts of valor were performed by everyday citizens who sacrificed their own lives to save others.
In the Bible, John 15:13 states, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” On September 11, 2001, these heroes not only laid down their lives for their friends but most laid down their lives for complete strangers. They valiantly sacrificed for their love of humanity and love of America.
Al Qaeda Islamist terrorists hijacked four commercial airplanes in an attempt to destroy our country and our freedoms. But they did not succeed. The U.S. triumphed with mighty resolve and resilience.
As a result of 9/11/01 many enlisted to serve in the U.S. military. Since the attacks over 7,000 military members have been killed in combat, and sadly more than 30,000 military personnel and veterans have lost their lives to suicide.
Not only do many service men and women sustain physical injuries such as losing limbs, but they also silently cope with the less visible mental and emotional injuries resulting from trauma. Many have witnessed their military brothers and sisters being killed before their eyes.
We owe a debt of gratitude to our military members and law enforcement officers who keep our nation safe every day. Thank you to the Gold Star families who have sacrificed their loved ones who fought in order to ensure our freedom. Freedom is not free – it comes with a price.
As I fled from my building, I silently promised God that going forward I would do my best to stand as a witness for Him and give back. I was reminded that life is a fragile gift, and I needed to make it count.
Eight years later, I chose to leave the financial industry and fulfill my earlier commitment to give back to my country by serving as a special agent in the FBI. I was part of the Bureau for over a dozen years.
Most of us will never be asked to or expected to pay the ultimate sacrifice for another or for our country. But we can each make a small sacrifice by lifting another’s burden, bringing light to a dark situation, standing for truth, restoring hope, or otherwise providing help to those in need.
During this sacred commemoration may we take a moment to reflect on the victims and heroes of September 11 and those who gave everything in the aftermath. May we each consider what sacrifice we can make in order to give back and serve our great nation.
I am blessed and proud to be an American. United we stand. In God we trust. We must never forget 9/11/01.