The first time I ever spoke to my husband was on September 11, 2001. We were seniors at Hickory High School in Chesapeake and had second-period Physics together.
As most people alive at the time probably do, I remember so many details about that day.
I heard hushed conversations among teachers in homeroom but none of my classmates knew what they were discussing. I walked to my next class and found everyone gathered around the television.
Sam arrived before me and explained two planes had flown into the World Trade Center towers.
At 16, I had no idea what that meant.
I was struck by Sam’s confidence that it was not an accident and that we would soon be at war. That someone, somewhere, deliberately plotted to kill Americans.
Perhaps because of his father’s military service, he immediately grasped the magnitude of the attacks.
Within a half-hour, our Principal, Dr. Linda Byrd, held a moment of silence over the school intercom and asked teachers to turn off their televisions.
I remember being angry about that decision because by that point we knew a large number of firefighters and paramedics ran into the burning buildings shortly before they collapsed.
My mother was an EMS Supervisor for the City of Portsmouth in 2001 and later retired as a firefighter/ paramedic. All I wanted to do at that moment was hug my mommy.
I cried A LOT that day.
At the time, I was wrestling with a decision between being the Editor-In-Chief of my school newspaper or continuing to study broadcasting at a vocational center.
In the week prior to 9/11, the choice seemed like a huge deal with massive consequences for my future. By the end of the school day, all of my teenage angst felt so petty and for a while, I was ashamed of my self-centered thoughts.
How could I ever think my life had problems? In hindsight, I did face great challenges then, but choosing which class to take was not one of them. (Spoiler: I took the broadcasting class.)
We couldn’t begin to imagine all the ways that day would shape my generation.
Many of my high school and college classmates would serve tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. A few of them have died in the wars.
I would meet dozens of Gold Star families throughout the course of my career and I still carry their stories in my heart.
I married Sam nine years later and am incredibly proud of his service as a member of the Special Forces.
Beyond the lives of those killed and those who served, there isn’t a piece of American culture that hasn’t been dramatically impacted by the attacks.
From the way we travel to our views on mental health and what we pay for with our tax dollars, the legacy of 9/11 profoundly changed the fabric of our country.
On a personal level, it continues to serve as my litmus test for deciding which things are worth stressing over and what could instead be viewed as an opportunity for gratitude.
Today I am grateful for the opportunity to raise a daughter who will hopefully build on the work of those before her to make the world a better, more loving, kind, and considerate place for the generations that follow.