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On September 11th, 2001, most of us were either infants, or not even born yet. We grew up in a post 9/11 world. We grew up amidst the war on terror. A few short weeks after the 9/11 attacks, I was in New York, being pushed around soot covered streets. In all the rubble and destruction, a few flowers were growing. My dad took a picture of me in my stroller next to those flowers, because of the symbolism. Good perseveres. Innocence and beauty and happiness find a way to exist.
We remember and mourn the attack and the victims of it. We think of the cruel calculation of the attack. The meaning of the date. 911. The significance of the targeted buildings. The twin towers, the center of our economy, the Pentagon, our military, and the White House, our government. It wasn’t just a random attack. It was planned. Not only to frighten the American people, but to prove that even America, the freest country in the world, is far from safe. That the very foundations of what makes us a civilized country and democracy can be can be broken.
On September 11th, 2012, embassy personnel in Benghazi, Libya were attacked, resulting in the death of our Ambassador, Chris Stevens. It’s no coincidence that it occurred on such a tragic day for so many Americans. Last December I was able to listen to a man who was in Benghazi, stationed there during the attack. His story was captivating. He spoke of their small group’s decision to work on their combat medical skills just two days before the attack, simply because they had a feeling they should practice. He stated that “everything we practiced that day, we utilized, and needed not one more.” Then he spoke about their “get-away” on a private jet as all the embassy was evacuated. The entire contract with a private transportation company was made the morning before the attack. Again, on a whim, they felt like they should put that together in order to fly in, out, and around Libya at a moment’s notice if needed. Little did they know that evening, or early the next morning, they would be looking for a way to evacuate and that would be their ticket out of Libya.
With all the darkness and all the fear, Americans have learned. We have found a way to persevere. Our department of Homeland Security was established after 9/11. The security at airports we know now became international law. We learned from history. So while we will never forget and we will always grieve the deaths of those Americans, we must also remember that day as a turning point. We have to look at it with hope. 9/11 should also be a day where we remember we overcame. As Mayor Giuliani of New York said a few weeks after the incident, “The attacks of September 11th were intended to break our spirit. Instead we have emerged stronger and more unified.”