Proud to be an American

One day when I was in elementary school, classes abruptly stopped. My teacher told us that school was ending early, and so we sat quietly in our classroom, eating cookies and waiting for our parents to pick us up.

But this was no ordinary school closing—no snow day, no tornado.

I realized something was wrong only when my father arrived, exhausted and covered in flecks of white dust. On his way to work that morning, he had run into a subway station to avoid falling debris as a plane flew into the second tower of the World Trade Center.

September 11, 2001 was a bright, cloudless fall day. I was in first grade. And everything was bizarrely normal.

But the moment I set foot outside the safety of my school, I knew something was strange. The streets were clogged, traffic at a standstill. We had to walk home.

Do you know what it’s like to lose all sense of safety? 9/11 was like having your house broken into when you least expect it, when you live in a neighborhood where no one locks their doors and you can’t even believe that anyone would rob a house.

I know it may be hard to imagine if you’ve never lived there, but for me, New York City was that friendly, safe house, and it had been attacked.

Buildings were rebuilt, burns were healed, but that sense of safety never returned. New York City is forever looking over its shoulder in search of the next threat. Thanks to the incredible courage of my parents, my 5 year-old self was never for a moment frightened. But I will never forget that day.

So it seems very strange to me when people ask why it matters that Osama Bin Laden is dead. His death certainly carries a different meaning for those of us who were in New York that day. Everyone in the city was deeply affected, whether by the death of a loved one or by the sheer horror of what took place. I still feel my stomach drop whenever I look up and see a low-flying plane, even here in Dallas.

And so I think it is vitally important that everyone who was affected know that the man responsible isn’t still out there. I think it is important that our government show its citizens and the world that no one can massacre 3,000 Americans and get away with it. Although many people (including me) would have preferred a fair trial over instant death, by killing Osama Bin Laden the United States government stood behind its people—behind the civilians who died, the firefighters and police officers who worked to save them and the soldiers who fought to protect them.

Though I couldn’t go celebrate in the streets of my hometown, on May 1, 2011, I was very proud to be an American.

-Lizzie