It was my first biology lab of my freshman year in college. I was thrilled to get my hands on real lab equipment. The years I’d spent in a tiny town were behind me and I was finally moving onto the big time. We sat down for class, anxiously drinking in every bit of safety information the instructor would give us, desperate to get our hands on the shiny, expensive equipment surrounding us. There was a knock at the door. Someone came in and said a plane had hit the Twin Towers in New York. I remembered my 11th grade trip to New York City. I had seen those giant towers with wide, innocent eyes, gazed upon their vastness, massive stone shooting high into the sky. I’d even imagined myself living in the city after college. Our professor turned on the TV and we stared in quiet disbelief. We were quickly dismissed to our dorms and classes were cancelled for the rest of the day.
I arrived in my dorm to several messages on my machine from my parents. Should they come get me? What was the college reaction? It’s a big school, they said. It could be a target. No, I assured them, I was fine and wanted to stay with my friends and experience this on my own. As minutes turned to hours, word spread and my new college friends and I huddled together and watched our small, buzzing dorm room TVs, I began to feel awash with a feeling I’d never really experienced before. Pride in my country. Of course I’d always heard from teachers, parents, family, etc. what a wonderful country we live in and how lucky I was to have been born here. But it never really sunk in until that day. I’m an American. I’m so proud of that. To me 9/11 is the day I realized what true patriotism feels like, and I’ll never forget that feeling.