Over winter break of my first year of college, I took a trip up to New York to visit my boyfriend at the time. More friends joined us and we had a great time running around the city. New York City was intimidating and yet so magical it pulled me in. When I look back, I distinctly remember our trip up to the observation deck of the World Trade Center. The elevator was crowded, the glass windows were impressively large, and the city below seemed to go on without stopping. This was a photo I took with my disposable camera and have kept for more than a decade.
Not quite nine months after that trip, the most jarring day of my life occurred. Charlottesville was a cocoon for students but on 9/11 none of us were protected. We were vulnerable, confused, and worried. We were a nation on edge.
Being a native of the DC area, I knew parents who worked at the Pentagon. My cousin volunteered in the rescue efforts at the Pentagon and I am so very proud of his work in the following days. My father's parent company lost nearly 300 employees when flight 11 crashed into floors 93 to 99; they occupied floors 93 to 100 and no one in the office that day survived.
Each anniversary of 9/11 I remember where I was; I remember how shocked and terrified I was; and I remember being so very, very thankful to have my family and friends. I remember how proud I was when American flags popped up everywhere in Charlottesville including a massive one that covered the first and second floors of Elmo (a frat house on Rugby Road).
This year, on this anniversary, I will be grateful for my husband and our very special family. I will be grateful for our first responders and our military because they are so much braver than I am. I will be grateful that New York City is a tough city made up of men and women who cannot be cowed into silence and inaction even by such a massive tragedy. I will be grateful that personnel at the Pentagon continue to work diligently to prevent another 9/11 or other military attack. And as this year progresses, I will do more of the things I love; I will focus more on what makes me happy; and I will absolutely take more photos like this one that remind me of something very important.