11 September 2016

Proud to be an American

The iconic question for my generation, where were you the morning of 9/11?

It was a regular sort of morning. I was home, preparing for teaching my afternoon social studies classes of 7th and 8th graders, when I got a phone call from an acquaintance of my sister. He asked if I'd seen the news, the Pentagon and the Twin Towers had been attacked. We hung up the phone and I turned on the television.

It was shocking. Both of the Twin Towers had been hit and we were watching the smoke billow out of them. Reporters were talking about the firemen who had run into the buildings to save those inside. Then all of a sudden the Towers came tumbling down. The terrible question in my head - were the first responders still inside? Oh my G-d, they were. It was a horrible scene to watch - but I dragged myself away around noon... I still had classes to teach.

What was amazing was that Americans banded together. Congress even got together and sang God Bless America on national television. Being from Michigan, we used to make fun of New Yorkers - but that morning changed everything. We were all New Yorkers, we were all Americans... no matter where you were from. Life had changed. We, all Americans, were under attack that morning.

E Pluribus Unum - from many, one. The phrase printed on our Great Seal of the USA and on much of our money. The focus is not on where we come from - but who we become. There's so much talk about multiculturalism, the color of our skin, being from different working classes... but this is not what the United States is about. Certainly we can respect each other and our differences, but we are all Americans. Americans, period. Without qualifying adjectives added or needed.

The Islamic terrorists who attacked America's financial center, military center and attempted to attack our democracy at the core - who were stopped by the Flight 93 martyrs, bless them and their families - were attacking all of us. They did not care who we were as individuals, what color our skin was, what countries our families immigrated from... these terrorists cared about bringing death and destruction to Americans.

On September 11th, we were reminded that we are all Americans. We, as a whole, were and still are, under attack. America is a special place, and American exceptionalism is still a very real concept. We must not forget who we are. While other countries, thankfully, have followed our lead - the United States was the first to be founded on the concepts of religious freedom, the freedom of the individual to follow their dreams, the right of the individual to be greater than the class that they were born into, and so many G-d given rights that we take for granted each and every day - even the basic right to self defense... we must be thankful every day to be an American.

G-d Bless America. May G-d bless those who lost their lives and their families that terrible day 15 years ago in the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and in a field in Pennsylvania. G-d bless those first responders who ran bravely into the Towers not knowing if they would be coming out again. G-d bless those first responders who have since passed away and those who are sick because of their bravery that day. We honor your service to us all.

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