By Mia Garza McCord, President. September 10, 2021
20 years ago, our country changed forever. The events of 9/11 were a turning point for the United States of America. It was a realization that even in a land as great as ours, we were not safe. The fear was life altering. But, even greater, out of the dust rose a people who, in that moment, stood together. We comforted each other. We proudly flew the American Flag, and above all else, held our loved ones and complete strangers close as we tried to make sense of what happened.
20 years later, all our lives look very different. From a scared 18-year-old freshman watching the events unfold from a dorm television to a wife and mom of two very inquisitive and perceptive children, the events of 9/11 still replay like an old movie reel in my mind, evoking every sense as I transport back to that day.
Up until last night, my husband and I have memorialized and re-watched the images of that day without our children around. But, last night as we prepared for bedtime, something told me to stop from changing the channel from a tv special about 9/11. My husband was on the phone, and I knew that perhaps I was about to tread on some very sticky ground. But, nonetheless, I stopped.
As expected, the questions immediately ensued. “Why was the building on fire? When did this happen? Was 20 years ago before I was born? Why would someone do that? Who would do that?” As our four-year-old buried her face in my arms, I was speechless and heartbroken for a moment. What had I just done?
But, then the words came. In a very careful way, I explained what we were watching. I first talked about why America is such a great country. I explained that no matter the problems we see and experience daily, America is still the greatest country in the world, because we are free. We are free to have our own thoughts and opinions and are free to express those thoughts and opinions. And, then I explained that our country stands for something that others do not like, and that some of these people are willing to hurt Americans because of our freedom.
This shook them and I could immediately see it. And, after a few more seconds of watching footage of the first plane burning in the tower, I asked our son if he remembered meeting Sen. Birdwell when he was on the Senate floor with Uncle Kelly. He hesitantly said yes, although, I am doubtful he can remember events from two years ago. I told him that Senator Birdwell was in the Pentagon in Washington D.C. when a third plane crashed into it and that he survived.
As my four-year-old winced, I asked if I should change the channel, already knowing the answer. And, as I did, our 8-year-old son said, “Mom, I want to learn about history. It is important to learn about these things.” I sighed, as we settled in as a family for bedtime prayers. And, as he thanked God for “all he created,” I thanked God for the 20 years he has given me because of the men and women who rose from the rubble, who ran to the fire, who put on a uniform, left their families, and fought for our country, and those who ultimately lost their lives.
Our country is hurting. We are reeling from a relentless pandemic, civil unrest, political turmoil, and a general distrust for our fellow Americans. But I urge you all to take a moment and remember that day and the days that followed. Remember standing hand in hand at candlelight vigils. Did you hug a complete stranger? Did you call and cling to your family and friends? Did you feel vulnerable and scared? Were you proud to be in a country that came together in its darkest moment? 20 years might be “history” to my young kids, but we must never stop telling the stories of that day, no matter how painful. We must never forget.