What 9/11 Means to Me

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The morning of 9/11/2001, I was writing a paper in the Georgetown University library and my wife was hard at work in the Watergate Building. We had been in Washington, DC for a little over a year and loved the diversity of people, ideas, thoughts, and opportunity that the bursting intersection of Virginia, DC, and Maryland provided. The terrorism of that bright blue, sunny morning haughtily removed beautiful, innocent lives and sent the United States down a path to war that we are still pursuing 20 plus years later.


What 9/11 means to me has slowly solidified over the years.

Service to Society Matters – A Lot

The tragedy of 9/11 made everyone in the United States realize that service to others and to the broader United States society matters. When you serve others, you place your goals, ambitions, and time secondary to defending and upholding the values, ethics, and dreams of those that you serve. This sounds elegant, but the reality of service to others means time away from family, often low pay, little recognition, long hours, and difficult work. The outcome for these efforts represents safety, education, health, commerce, and growth for the United States. Bottom line: hard but worth it.


We Need a Wider Definition of First Responders

On 9/11 the United States remembers the military that rose to defend the nation; police, fire, and medical personnel that ran to danger; and transformed bystanders that rose to help in any way they could. We often forget that doctors and nurses cared for the injured, teachers that comforted and explained the events to students, neighbors that started non-profits to fill unmet needs, and construction personnel that cleared debris and rebuilt. The list of the “heroes” that responded, rebuilt, and returned the people of the United States to a more normal state is long and that’s awesome. Bottom line: first responders are those that help the injured return to normal, we need to remember them all.


Terrorism is Whenever We Feel Unsafe in A Place That Should Feel Safe

Terrorism returned to the shores of the United States on 9/11. Terrorism, a simple definition, is whenever you feel unsafe in a location where you should feel safe. In that sense, schools, workplaces, airports, government buildings, foreign nations, malls, and even our own homes have become places that we feel less comfortable. The key to fighting terrorism is recognizing and admitting that terrorism exists and then acting to reduce the chances of a terrorist’s success. Bottom line: terrorists rely on fear overcoming action and reason to be successful – action destroys a terrorist’s chance of success.


We Need to Act to Resolve Conflicts Before They Start to Damage the United States

The War of 1812, Pearl Harbor, and 9/11 were all instances when festering foreign problems came unannounced to our shores. Wars and conflicts come from misunderstanding, economic disparities, misunderstood cultural differences, and leaders who feel that death instead of discussion is the way to resolve disputes. A key element of helping reduce the chances of another 9/11 is that the United States needs to seek out disagreement, poor economic conditions, disease, dictators, and misunderstanding across the world to bring reason, health, safety, discussion, and economic success to the most challenged areas. Bottom line: engagement and not distance are the keys to solve our most dangerous problems.


We Need to Remember the Fallen as People, Not Numbers

Remembrance without appreciation of what the fallen represented as people endangers all that we need to keep in our hearts about 9/11. When we remember personal sacrifice as numbers, type of injury, and other numerical categories then we forget that the injured and killed were people, wives, husbands, children, and family members that brought joy, knowledge, teaching, love, and fun to others. Bottom Line: the most dangerous type of memory is one that recalls sacrifice and tragedy as analytical and not as personal – force yourself to learn and recall the good parts of those that perished.


If I want one thing for the future of 9/11 remembrances, I want people to be engaged with helping others in the United States.  I want people helping solve problems abroad, so those problems do not come to our shores.  I want people who fell in helping the United States reach those goals remembered as people and not as numbers.  The memory of 9/11 should always be hard because that means we are truly remembering the tragedy of the day.


Share Your Opinion – How Do You Remember 9/11?


About the blogger:

Chad Storlie is a Retired US Army Officer, the author of Combat Leader to Corporate Leaderand has published over 400 articles in over 200 publications on military veterans, career advancement, business, leadership, strategy, education, financial planning, and national security topics.  Chad excels as an author, mentor, speaker, and teacher showing business leaders and military veterans how military skills make lives, careers, and businesses better. Chad is an adjunct Professor of Marketing at the University of Minnesota – Carlson School of Management.  Chad has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.  Follow Chad @CombatToCorp 


*Originally posted September 2019


Wendy Poling USAA

Moderator note: This post has been moved per the USAA Community Guidelines.

Briana Hartzell USAA


We appreciate you participating in Community, but please remember while we encourage friendly spirited debate and learning from differing opinions, name calling and insults will not be tolerated per the Community's Moderation Guidelines. 



Army Medic 1

Thanks for your help with my new checks!

Briana Hartzell USAA

Hi @Army Medic 1 ,

Glad to hear you got help ordering new checks! Thanks for the update. 
In case other members are looking for help ordering checks, this video goes through the step by step process. Take care!

Nice perspective and agreed that service is a conerstone of what makes any nation great and since we, in the United States, are the greatest nation then we must continue to serve oursleves and others. We should keep our house in order first (that is can most certainly be prespective).  I am fortunate because I grew up learning to serve and volunteer. My Father was a Greek imigrant but my Mother is a multigenerational American. So the best of both worlds for me. 

If you really want to better understand what it means to be an American go visit other countires, in my opinion. Once you are on thier soil and enteract with the people then it really starts to hit home, at least for me it has.


God Bless America and Semper Fi!!


As Cahd Stated "I want people to be engaged with helping others in the United States." But I feel the unity that was brought about because of 9/11 has been lost during this pandemic. With people so centered on their rights and yet forget the right of others to live free of harm from the choices of others. I just wish people would live by the words of President John F.Kennedy "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country." That is country includes your neighbors and even the stranger you may encounter.


I remember that I was unemployed at the time and doing nothing in particular at home in Northern Virginia when TJ called from Miami.  She was at work and had heard that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center in New York City. She wanted to know if it was true. I remember turning on the news and seeing the damage done to the North Tower.  At that point, we all thought it was a horrible accident caused by some sort of emergency that impacted the pilot.  I remember I was still talking to her as I watched a plane fly into the South Tower.  I remember the shock.  How could this be?  What was going on?  I couldn’t wrap my mind around the images and what they meant.  After hanging up with TJ, I then called my sister in Ohio.  We shared our disbelief as we both watched the coverage on the tv.  As we talked, there was a sound unlike I had ever heard and the house shook; the windows rattled for several seconds. It was loud enough that my sister heard it over the phone.  At that point, we did not know that it was the shock wave from the explosion at the Pentagon.  


I remember watching in horror as the South Tower fell.  And the images of flames and smoke pouring out of the gaping hole in the Pentagon.  And then the North Tower fell.  And then a plane crashed in Shanksville.  It wasn’t real.  It couldn’t be real. 


And then my memories become a blur as events unfolded.  Days of devastating images of destruction, stories of heartbreak, tales of astounding grief.  Thousands of lives shattered in the blink of an eye.  The heart of a nation broken.  A world forever changed. 


Did they know what was coming?  It is believed that those on the plane that hit the Pentagon did.  How could they not?  Flights out of Dulles Airport do not take the path this plane did and those on that plane that had flown fairly often, as so many of them did, knew they were not following the right path. They would have know that they should not be where they were.  And the plane was too low; flying over the highway at a level that took out street lights.  They knew something must be terribly wrong but did they know what was about to happen.  How could they not?


And then there were the brave souls who chose to take their destinies into their own hands and take the plane down in Pennsylvania before it could target Washington. They certainly knew.


I remember the grieving, the death, and the bravery of those who survived and those who searched for survivors.  Knowing that I would never be the same because I remember.


I remember driving by and seeing the gaping wound in the Pentagon; a building where my father once served. I remember being in NYC for the St. Patrick’s Day parade in March 2001.  Each of the firehouses in the parade carried a banner that showed the firehouse number and the number of individuals from that firehouse who were lost on 9/11. I remember one that showed that the entire firehouse was lost that day.  I remember the moment of absolute silence when all manmade sound in NYC ceased. And I remember later that night seeing the beams of light streaming into the night sky, marking the spots where the World Trade Towers once stood.


Years later, I remember taking the train from New Jersey to NYC.  And as the train left the tunnel, I was astounded to realize that the train was circling where the towers had once stood.  And in one corner of the empty lot was a single staircase; leading no where. A silent sentinel to what had once been but was no more. All the shock of that day came back in a second and clinched my heart.  I remember the memorials on the fence that surrounded ground zero.  I remember walking through the church across the street from ground zero that had somehow survived mostly unscathed.  It was there that many sought rest during those days of searching for survivors.  I remember walking around lower Manhattan, seeing pit marks in the buildings where debris from the Towers had stuck them like buckshot, pieces of the Towers that was stuck between buildings, and the bronze Sphere that had survived the Towers demise and been relocated to Battery Park.  


I remember walking the memorial at the Pentagon and reading the names; marveling at the simplicity and beauty while ruminating on the tragedy.  A peaceful haven born of such loss. 


I remember a United States that came together in our pain at the devastation done in a matter of minutes, our compassion for the lost and those left behind, empathy for those who were broken while searching for survivors and treating the wounded, and anger against an enemy.  I remember a United States that sought to come together, grieve, and heal.  I remember a United States that embraced our differences as we came together in a unity of spirit.  


I am glad that I remember.  Let us not forget that we as a nation were better and can be again, if we would all just remember the greatness that made us who we once were.  Remember.


We need a definition of terrorism less broad than this, Chad. Those who carried out the attacks on 9/11/01 were highly-motivated members of a group that has declared war on our civilization. It would be better to be more rather than less specific, here.

There is no bad person lurking behind every corner with a dispute resolution problem. And even if there was, that type of person would not have had the means and motivation to have done what was done on 9/11. 

This was a more recent battle in a very long and well-documented war on Western Civilization.

New Member

Truly, 9/11, The Vietnam War, Pearl Harbor, and countless other situations were caused by many bad policies and decisions, from the leaders of our country at those times. We must not ever forget this and just as the previous writers comments suggest, we are heading into another dire situation with the current political position of our government. Our Constitution leads with "We The People", and we must remember this and not let our government ever take that away from us, which is exactly what is going on today. 


We need to wake up as a nation, before it is too late.



Geaux Tigers 1975
Occasional Visitor

@arclight This is not the time or place to rant over your MAGA support and disinformation. It's about 9/11.