The Memory of 9/11 & How I Re-Learned To Appreciate America



9/11 will stand forever as one of the darkest days for the United States.  We were attacked in two of our most important cities, thousands of citizens died, a group of amazing airline passengers decided to fight back, and rescue personnel lost their lives to ensure people were saved.  I was living in Washington, DC at the time and what began as a beautiful fall day ended with faces of panicked people, soldiers on street corners, and the faint smell of smoke from the Pentagon drifting through a worried city that did not know what was next.


Today, on the anniversary of 9/11, the memories of courage, sacrifice, loss, and tragedy still burns bright and the ever present pain of that sorrow is undiminished for all of America.  Still, in the face of tragedy and loss, 9/11 helped teach me to be a better and more appreciative American.


Every Beautiful Day Needs To Be Appreciated.  The days that I enjoy the most are beautiful mornings with kids walking to school, the air fresh and crisp, the sky blue, the trees green, and the mood filled with purpose and expectation.  The start of days like this are common in America and that is what makes them so special.  Beginning the day with purpose, expectation, and a dedication to work hard is so uniquely American that we have to appreciate the purpose and dedication of America. 


Differences Are To Be Appreciated And Valued, Not Attacked.  America began, and remains, as a place of refuge for people from different social classes, economic fortunes, religious beliefs, skin color, and historical upbringing.  The very structure of American society as the one place in the world where it does not matter who you were, but it matters more what you do, how you treat others, and what you accomplish is a lesson that all Americans must hold dear.  Americans appreciation of the value of each other’s differences remains far from perfect but infinitely better than the rest of the world.


Emergency Responders Are The Heroes In Our Daily Lives.  The high loss of life by emergency responders in the immediate wake of 9/11 was a devastating loss.  The sheer selflessness to run towards danger, any danger, to protect, treat, and safeguard all members of the community that they protect is a defining structure of the United States.  These daily overt examples of responding to fires, violence, and accidents as well as their hidden activities to keep us safe from criminals defines a style of quiet heroism that few of us fully appreciate.


We Must Always Be Prepared To Fight Our Enemies.  9/11 placed in stark terms that the freedom of the United States and the freedom of society that we enjoy are worth fighting to keep.  America still stands as a beacon of light, freedom, and hope for the majority of the world and our military power must always be prepared to fight to maintain and keep alive what the United States represents.  America has always been slow to fight to enable negotiation, but the military might of the United States remains one of the best protections of our democracy.


I Love To Watch My Children Play.  Before and after 9/11, I deployed to combat zones around the world as did millions of other military personnel.  Our deployments were the response to fight and to maintain our country from those who sought to destroy it.  America suffered the loss of thousands killed and even more wounded both physically and emotionally to maintain the peace and security of the country we love.  Today, when I sit in a park and watch my children and other children play, I think back and appreciate the sacrifice of those America lost.  The freedom of children to run, to laugh, and to play with each other undisturbed by thoughts of violence is the purest representation of why we fought.


9/11 will always remain a day of sorrow, shadow, and loss - and it should.  However, on 9/11, under a blue sky with flags softly blowing in the breeze, I will re-learn and re-appreciate the United States of America, always remember lost friends that fought for our safety, and be the best American that I can be.


Share your stories of loss, memories and pride as we remember 9/11.


About The Author:

Chad Storlie is a Retired US Army Officer, the author of Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and has published over 230 articles in over 110 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 Creighton University.  Chad has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University.  Follow Chad @CombatToCorp


*Originally posted September 2017 updated in 2022