9/11: A day of remembrance

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Eli Chevalier (far left) sits for a family portrait with his father and little brother in early 2001. Chevalier (right) receives coin by Medal of Honor recipient Alfred V. Rascon at Fort George G. Meade, Md., Feb. 27, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Airman 1st Class Eli Chevalier)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Eli Chevalier (far left) sits for a family portrait with his father and little brother in early 2001. Chevalier (right) receives coin by Medal of Honor recipient Alfred V. Rascon at Fort George G. Meade, Md., Feb. 27, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Airman 1st Class Eli Chevalier)

Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England --

My day started as any other.

The warm smell of pastries filled my nose as I waited to have breakfast with my sister and little brother before I said goodbye for school.

As I meandered into our family living room, I stopped. My mom was just standing in front of our small TV with her hands over her mouth. I turned to the screen, where I saw smoke billowing out of towers and heard nervous reporters explaining how planes had crashed into the World Trade Center. My sister was crying. My mom, in shock, called my dad at work. I registered this: Terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York City.

I didn’t know what a terrorist was. What were the Twin Towers? New York was really far away, so my family and I would be alright wouldn’t we?

As the day progressed, I learned the answers to the first two questions, as well as what a terrorist was. Through countless hours of listening to news broadcasts throughout that day and the weeks that followed, I never found the answer to my third question.

Now, as the 15th anniversary of those attacks approaches, I think I can answer it. I’m confident that I, along with the other Airmen, Sailors, Marines and Soldiers in the U.S. military, will do whatever we can to keep our home safe.

It’s crazy to think that incoming high school freshmen this year weren’t even born when 9/11 happened. They will learn about it as a historical event.

For the rest of us, those traumatic events are ingrained in our memories, resurfacing every year when we remember those lost in the attacks. Even though I was only five years old at the time, I can still relive the events that unfolded that day. It’s burned into my mind.

While 9/11 is a day of somber remembrance, it is also a day to honor the 3,000 innocent people who were snatched instantly or who spent the last hours of their lives in terror as the world they knew turned to dust and ash around them. We honor the firemen, paramedics and police officers who died in the line of duty trying to save those who were trapped. We praise the passengers aboard American Airlines Flight 93 who valiantly tried to regain control of their flight after it was taken over by terrorists. We remember those who were lost when a third plane crashed into the Pentagon.

I mourn with the families who lost loved ones in the attacks. They are just one of the many reasons I serve this great country of ours.