Today, I am proud to be American.
The past several months have been a whirlwind for me, and thankfully it has mostly been good things. From career advancements to traveling the world and all the little things in between, I am very thankful.
However, even through all of the excitement, as soon as I saw today's date, I was yanked out of my comfy life all the way back to a day in 5th grade. I had done something that earned me a disciplinary trip to the principal's office. (My hilarious antics were ahead of their time, what can I say....I'm sure it was worth it.)
While I was waiting in the office for my "sentence" I remember seeing a couple of teachers run in with tears, and other staff and students with concerned faces walking by. I remember running to the main administration office which had a radio and hearing the news about a plane crash in the World Trade Center. I remember realizing that there was another student whose father worked there, and I remember finding out that his father was killed.
I remember being called into the cafeteria so that we could be dismissed to the buses the way we were always dismissed on Fridays and other special half-days, even though it was a Tuesday. Finally, I remember watching the footage on the news at home on the TV in the den. Those planes crashing one after another into the towers, like an epic action movie stunt, but it was no stunt. It was so hard to fathom what was happening and even at my young age, I remember understanding that something absolutely terrifying and horrendous was happening, even if I could not fully grasp the magnitude of those actions.
Then came all the stories; the people who lost their fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, sisters, and brothers; the people who were meant to go into work that day but didn't for one reason or another; the eyewitnesses that were close enough to hear and feel the impacts, that were covered in ash and soot from being within a multi-block radius of the catastrophe - the almost-casualties that the universe spared that day.
If you are mourning a loss that turned 18 today, I stand with you. As a citizen of the "land of milk and honey", I am sadly well-acquainted with the effects of terrorism and war. I've lost my fair share of friends and loved ones to the political violence that wreaks havoc on our corner of the globe. I have felt that feeling of bewilderment and helplessness as I listed to the eulogy of yet another friend. I've cried for the families of co-workers and friends that were struck by senseless acts of hatred and violence, and it never gets easier. Just know that by continuing to live your life and enjoy your freedoms and luxuries, you are continuing to win against bringers of terror and destruction. It can feel like a shallow victory, but it is a victory nonetheless and perhaps you can take solace in knowing that.
Today, I am someone who has lived in Israel for the majority of the past decade, and my patriotism largely lies with this beautiful country that I've built my life in. The current state of the American people is unbelievably divided and I obviously don't need to talk about the man with the Twitter account who is fueling that division, albeit unintentionally (mostly... look it is very complicated... let's save that topic for a rainy day). However, no matter what happens or where I go, no matter how US history unfolds and how good or bad it gets, the US will always be the country that raised me, and I'll never forget it. On days like today, I am fiercely proud to be an American. God bless the United States of America.