September 11, 2001 is a day America will never forget.

The day started differently.  School had begun a few weeks earlier and we had settled into the morning routine of getting up, getting breakfast, getting ready, and going to school.  I had just begun the 4th grade, my first year in upper grade, and was eagerly awaiting my birthday in seven days.  I had plans to run for student office, play sports, make new friends, learn important new topics, rule the world…normal high achieving 4th grade plans.

Instead I woke up to my mom watching tv and a feeling of anger and fear I had never felt before.  I will always remember that fateful day. The day I learned what fear and resilience really meant. It was also the day I fell in love with New York City, a place I would later visit.

One of the towers had just been hit as my mom let out a scream of terror and disbelief.  As I walked into the front room I was confused, the tv was NEVER on school mornings. My mom turned around and our eyes connected. I knew something terrible happened and I immediately thought of my dad and my aunt. My dad was in Las Vegas and was scheduled to fly home either today or tomorrow. My aunt was always traveling. There were talks of additional flights going down, I had to know that I would see them again.

The sequence of the rest of the day is fussy but I remember the events clearly. My mom explaining what happened, confirming that both my aunt and dad were alive and well, going to school, and trying to regain some normalcy.

My fourth grade teacher pulling down a map to show that New York was across the country. The pain and agony that hung in the air. We watched some of the newscast in class and waited to hear if our Vice Principal’s brother had made it out of the trade center in time. The entire school applauded as the announcement that he was alive and uninjured ran out. Finally the day was done and I got to talk to my dad. After hearing his voice, I breathed a sigh of relief. He was ok. Now I had to create a plan to get him home.

I set to work informing my dad that he was forbidden from stepping foot on an airplane, in an airport, or really anything remotely related to air (breathing was barely acceptable).  He was to get home as fast as he could as safely as he could and anyone who stood in his way of getting to me would have to answer to me. At the age of eight, I was ready to take on the world and anyone to prevent another disaster from happening.

September 11, 2001 was a horrible, painful day but it would be the days following that would continue to amaze me.  Communities coming together to start to rebuild and people supporting each other to search for people buried in the rubble left me speechless. The selflessness demonstrated throughout New York City proved that we were down but we were no out.

Years later, I had the opportunity to visit New York for the first time.  My school choir had been invited to participate in a Choir Festival an honor and an opportunity. In three tour busses, a truly comical sight in NYC, we visited the Empire State Building, the Rockefeller Center, attended a broadway play, and even took a ferry out to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Every stop was breathtaking and memorable; however, walking through the 9/11 memorial that was being built was an honor. The events of that day came rushing back as I stared at the giant hole that was once two iconic towers. The destruction was gone, replaced by hope regardless of how cliché it sounds.

I remember entering New York City for the first time. I knew that someday I would be back. My story has moments of destruction and anguish, but I to have begun to rebuild and am stronger in spite of everything. I will never be able to express my sorrow for those who have been affected by September 11, 2001 or the actions after, yet I will continue to be inspired, encouraged by the citizens of New York City and hope to one day to have the honor of calling myself a New Yorker.