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A quiet Tuesday morning in September 12 years ago started out like any other. Americans went to work at stores, restaurants, factories and office buildings, expecting the day to start and finish like the Monday before.

The Tribute in Light rose from Ground Zero in New York City where the World Trade Center stood before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.But by mid-morning, the world had been irrevocably changed.

Managing Editor Christopher Fox GrahamThe vision of airliners slamming into New York City office buildings and the Pentagon was terrifying, but even more so, the footage of people above those World Trade Center impact areas staring out over their city and at us, people who could not save them. Firefighters and police officers ran into the building, and hundreds of them gave the last full measure of devotion to save whom they could. Within hours, the buildings came down, and the world would never be the same.

Sept. 11, 2001, became a date unforgettable and unerasable from history. Like the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the infamous Dec. 7, 1941, the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944, President John F. Kennedy’s assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, or Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin setting foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, Sept. 11 is a date which lives forever in our collective memory. For those of us too young for Pearl Harbor or the moon landing, Sept. 11 is our “where were you when?” moment.

For people in their 20s and 30s, Sept. 11, 2001, was a date when history was no longer confined to high school history books, but a tangible moment when world history became vivid and terrifyingly real. Young people now in high school are at an age when they vaguely remember that morning but have grown up in a post-Sept. 11 world.

 The true “terror” of that morning was not the violence, fires and destruction brought into New York City, Washington, D.C., and a field in rural Shanksville, Pa., but looking at people just like us facing the inevitable.

For me, the sight of a man and woman who held hands as they fell 90 stories is still haunting.

Borders ceased to matter in the aftermath. From Tel Aviv to Havana, Beijing to Berlin, people on the street and world leaders sent their sympathies. Le Monde, the largest newspaper in France, summed up the opinion felt by people around the world: “Nous sommes tous Américains” — we are all Americans.

The outpouring of compassion reminded us that despite nationalities, ethnic backgrounds or political affiliations, we are all one community sharing the same small blue planet. Twelve years later, we are still that community.

Christopher Fox Graham

Managing Editor


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