On September 11, 2001, I was in the fourth grade. My bus got to school on time, but when we walked inside, things were different. I remember people in the main office were on their phones, and instead of being sent to the cafeteria to wait for the first bell -- like usual -- we were sent straight to our homerooms.
I remember walking in and seeing something on the TV. I didn't know what it was at first. The image was of WTC 1, smoke billowing from its sides. We stayed in homeroom for a while, but 20 minutes later, we were told something else had happened and we were being sent back home.
They didn't tell us then, but I later found out it was because WTC 2 had been attacked.
My dad works in Baltimore, so he was sent home early, too.
As a fourth grader, the reality doesn't really strike you when something like that happens. New York City is so far away, it didn't have the impact that living closer would have had.
I was 9 years old at the time. I'm 21 now, and through the years, the impact of 9/11 has grown with me. During high school, I started a tradition for myself: every year, I change my background photo to a picture of the Twin Towers, and every year, I watch this compilation of live news broadcasts.
That video hits home every time I watch it.
I think it's important that I keep up that tradition. It's become my way of showing respect, and remembering the lives we lost. 9/11 is a part of our national identity. All of us have a memory of that day. All of us remember where we were when we found out what happened. And every year, we should stop and recall those memories, watch those newscasts, say our prayers, show our respects.
On September 11, 2011, I watched the 10-year anniversary with the grand opening of the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero. I've been to NYC since, and I've visited the memorial. I've followed the rise of the Freedom Tower, one of the most beautiful towers in the world. America's newest way of saying, "We will never back down."
And I will Never Forget.