9/11 & The American Spirit - An Outsider's Perspective

I remember the day like it was yesterday. Nothing was out of the ordinary, we woke up, got dressed and barely caught our bus in time for school. When our day ended we caught the same bus back home. It was like any normal Tuesday an 7 year old living in Georgetown, Guyana was to expect. Until my brother and I got home. Vividly, I can recall the news protruding through our television set, loud enough to be heard from our unlocked gates. Why was mom home?

Then I saw the buildings. The pictures on the screen that accompanied the now unbearably loud news broadcast are still the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. But standing there in my living room on that Tuesday afternoon, the fear I felt wasn’t just for the loss of life. It was deeper.

The Freedom Tower - Photo Credit: Ross Medico

The Freedom Tower - Photo Credit: Ross Medico

See, during this time my family was actively working through the process of acquiring permanent visas to the United States for hopes of a better life. Fueled by nothing more than stories, pictures and videos provided by third party sources, the perception of America to a 7 year old growing up in the third world is practically a fairytale. Half believing the roads to be paved with gold, convertibles lining the streets, I thought of the country as a sanctuary for the hardships and struggles I grew accustomed to.

Seeing the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001 didn’t just put me at the doorstep of reality. It vividly depicted the evil that threatened the way of life I so greatly yearned for. The invincibility of the mystic wonderland I conjured up in my head was being washed away with each replay of the planes crashing into the towers.

My mother was sent home from work because almost all of our family living in The States resided in New York City. We couldn’t get in contact with an aunt working in the city.

But sure enough as the city began its recovery process, what ensued was the greatest marketing campaign I’ve ever seen - evidence. Evidence of The American Spirit and what it stands for, what it means, was put on full display for the world to see. From First Responders, to to Law Enforcement, and citizens alike - acts of selflessness, patriotism, and human decency became the most poignant examples of what it means to be an American through the eyes of a person standing on the outside.

So, as we remind ourselves to Never Forget about the tragic loss of life suffered, let us also not forget to acknowledge the response to tragedy with the entire world watching. Because while New York City was shrouded in darkness in the aftermath of devastation, through it’s people it’s light shined brightest for the world to see.