I didn't know what a BlackBerry was. I didn't even own a cell phone. I didn't have a Facebook, Twitter or a MySpace. I had a Xanga. I'd never heard of a text message but I used AIM religiously. I was in Civics class freshman year of high school when Dr. Melnick, our principal at WRHS announced the news. My dad drove me to school in his brand-new Chevy S-10 and I worried he'd never make it home from the Base. John Ritter was alive, for exactly two more years.
I remember the announcement made by Dr. Melnick and the words she spoke, with such grace and warmth. She asked us to pray for our country and we watched the news, even though we weren’t supposed to…
I was not yet 15 but I grew excited by the minute for two weeks later I'd get a learner's permit, a cable modem and a CD burner. I was involved in my first One Act and played the part of Louie in a play about Catholic school students.
But for a moment those things didn’t quite matter as I struggled to understand but knew all too well that this wasn't just some cruel nightmare. It was real life. I remember the pain I felt in my chest and stomach when I watched that first tower fall. I turned to a friend and said, "Oh, my God..." I remember my science teacher saying she couldn’t watch anymore and turned off the TV. I kept hoping we’d watch more, because I wanted to know why. Why it happened. Why this was happening to us. The U...S...A!
I remember Frank Ash telling me we should sit near one another at lunch and organize a prayer team. I remember wondering if school or our lives would ever be the same. School returned to normal by the next week, but my life and the lives of everyone in America would never be the same.
At the time, I didn’t have a home church but I held a strong belief in a God that was strong enough to help me get through the day. I remember punching my grandmother’s number on the payphone and felt so much comfort in knowing she was okay. I grew more and more frightened when I phoned my father on Base and heard the words, “All circuits are busy…” and feared the worst.
I remember hearing President Bush’s speech that night and how he ended it with “And I pray they will be comforted by a power greater than any of us spoken through the ages in Psalm 23: 'Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.'" I never felt so close to my family or my country in all my life. I remember feeling anger, sadness, and above all, guilt. Finally, my father returned home and I still remember the way I hugged him
Guilt consumed me for the days after. And like so many of us, I realized that day I never fully embraced or appreciated what being an American really was about. Freedom. Freedom for everyone. Freedom for you and me. Freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, freedom to vote, freedom to celebrate being an American! And celebrate I did. Celebrate I do! Celebrate I will!
Nine years later... I remember and I'll never, ever forget. God bless America!