There is a manila envelope on my bookshelf, tucked between my Dragonology calendar and an almanac from the year I was born. Inside is a folded up newspaper, something I have saved for nearly ten years. The image on the front is still striking and recognizable, even now, ten years down the road.

For my generation, September 11th is our Pearl Harbor. It is a day that we will never truly leave behind, no matter how old we get. For us, it is the day that, for one brief moment in time, the whole world stopped. Not just my world. The whole world. And God wept.

“We will not forget.” That’s what we said.

I have the decency to say that in most ways I have forgotten. The half-page, newsprint flag that the St. Pete Times printed was taken down just months after the event. I go about my day-to-day and it rarely crosses my mind. I cannot claim that it affects me, because it doesn’t. I didn’t lose anyone. I didn’t live through the horror of 110-stories of steel and concrete and glass raining down on me. So yes, in a way I have forgotten–just as many have.

But that’s the funny thing with words. The phrase, “We will not forget” will have one meaning to the group of people who lost someone in the attacks. It will have another meaning for those who lived through the attacks. And for the group that includes me?

I am about as south of New York as you can get without having to swim (there’s not much below me, mostly just swamp…and Miami). For me all the events of Sept. 11th were relayed over the television and radio and through the newspaper.

But I still remember watching the towers fall.

I remember lying on the tile floor in our kitchen/living room (why I was lying on the floor instead of sitting at the table, I cannot tell you). The was a yellow No. 2 pencil in my hand and I was working on my schoolwork. I can’t remember the subject. What I do remember is my brother bursting in the front door shouting, “Turn on the TV!” I, of course, being the older sibling, took offense at being bossed around by baby bro and demanded why. The response came, “Someone crashed a plane into one of the Twin Towers.” At that point, we still thought it might be an accident.

My family spent two days in front of the television. Watching. Waiting. Mom didn’t even make us do our school work.

Of course, then day three rolled around and she decided that that was enough and we needed to get on with life.

But, even though she tried to avoid the channels with footage of them, I still remember the videos of people jumping out the windows.

And I still can’t believe that there are people that could think it was okay to take that many innocent lives. Especially not lives like the little girl on Flight 175. Her picture shows a chubby-cheeked, happy little baby–maybe a year old–with baby’s breath in her hair. How anyone could walk right past that little girl and condemn her to death is probably beyond most of us.

September 11, 2001 was the day we saw some of the worst that humanity has to offer.

But we also got to see something else. Something that most of us will be truly lucky to ever witness. Because, in our everyday life, we may get to see good things, but we don’t really get to see humanity truly shine. It is only when we are faced with the worst that we get to see the best humanity has to offer.

In the days following the attacks on the Twin Towers, we got to see heroes. An entire generation was impacted by the stories of firefighters. Of people that carried a quadriplegic man down flights of stairs. Heroism that we so rarely get to see was shown in abundance across newspapers and television channels everywhere.

I will always remember that day. Always be able to close my eyes and see the towers fall when I stop to think about it. For we that’s the meaning of “We will not forget.”

And that’s what it says on my newspaper clipping: “9-11-01. We will not forget.”

Today I remember. Today I will thank God for the best that humanity has to offer. For the men and women that protect us at home and overseas. Today, I will look at that newspaper and be proud of them.  Today I thank all of those who stepped up on that day and every day since and confronted the worst with the best they had to offer. To all the victims, firefighters, police, and soldiers that have carried the burden of 9/11, I thank you.

Today, at least, I will not forget.

On that newspaper, under the caption is a familiar picture. A picture that impacted all of us as we contemplated horror. In the midst of tragedy and ruin, three firemen took the time to get the stars and stripes flying again. In that moment, our flag was hope.

In the midst of horror, hope is the one thing that keeps coming back.

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