When we go to college, we fully expect to receive an education and learn the material in our textbooks. What we often find surprising, however, is how much our professors end up teaching us about life. This was the case for me on the fateful September 11, 2001 – when my English professor taught me – well – a lot more than English.
Where was I when I heard about the attacks on the World Trade Center? I was a young college freshman, hurrying through the halls on my way to an early morning class. As I reached the Learning Center, I was shocked to find all of my friends standing in the halls, crying openly, or cutting skipping class in order to cluster around the televisions in the dorm lobbies.
“What’s going on?” I asked a girl named Jennifer, who was in my English class.
“We’re under attack!” She shouted, her face stricken with panic. “America is under attack!”
I walked into English class in a daze. Instead of the usual hubbub, everyone sat in stunned silence. And with that, my English professor walked up to the podium, wiping tears from her eyes.
“None of you will forget this day,” she told us, “and none of you should. My generation had Pearl Harbor, and now, your generation has this attack. And it will be up to you to carry this burden, and to keep this country safe for your children and your children’s children. Let me pray for you.”
And she did. She prayed that the Lord would give each student in her class the courage and wisdom to stand against evil and protect the rights and freedoms of Americans. I remember shaking as I listened to her prayer, imagining myself being drafted into the military and feeling as if my college education was vanishing before my eyes. Of course, things never reached that point, and I was able to finish my degree. But if things had reached that point, I would have taken my place among the ranks and stood for my country – everyone in that room would have. It was a terrifying feeling, but it was also inspiring and envigorating.
“We’re all grown up,” I thought to myself. “It is up to us to protect the future… and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
On this anniversary of a dark day in America’s history, I will surely remember those who gave their lives, and those who had their lives taken from them. But I will also remember it as the day that I – along with my generation – really started growing up. We learned that if we want the world to be a better place, it’s up to us to stand up and make that happen. We learned that we’re going to face overwhelming challenges, but with God’s help, we know we have what it takes.
What lessons did you learn from 9/11?