I had just dragged myself out of bed after a typical late college night of studying. By “studying”, I of course mean “NCAA Football on Playstation 2”. I was in a rush to get to class on time. My roommate yelled from his room, “Hey guys, come watch. Something’s going on.” My other roommate and I walked in and gathered around his 19″ tv/vcr combo. I was still brushing my teeth. We watched for a couple of minutes, confused, like most of America. We were watching as the second plane hit. All three of us sat in silence for a couple of minutes. I decided to run up to campus to see if anyone there knew what was going on (this was long before the age of Twitter or Facebook…and it would’ve taken me longer to dial-up to the internet with my AOL subscription than to get to campus).

I walked into the business building on A&M’s west campus. Silence. Every student and professor (hundreds of them) were gathered around the numerous tvs in foyers of the building watching the world change. No one was speaking. Eerie silence. There we stood. Periodically I’d make silent eye contact with strangers around the building. We’d just shake our heads in mutual disbelief. Large groups of friends, acquaintances, and strangers slowly broke away from the tvs, locking arms and hands. We began to pray in a somber, confused, and earnest kind of way.

The following days were an absolute whirlwind of emotion. The nation was draped in red, white, and blue. A number of my classmates enlisted. Political bantering momentarily ceased. I’ve never felt a national unity like I did that week. Republicans were willing to fight to avenge the deaths of democrats who had died in the collapse-and vice versa. Race, gender, creed, etc. were not a concern. America was. Churches drew standing-room-only crowds. God Bless America became a motto of nation that I would have described as secular weeks earlier. The event meant to disrupt and divide us unified us. My alma mater’s “red, white, and blue out” display was one of the many, many wonderful displays of national unity (I was one of the ones in white by the way).

Here we are, over a decade removed from the tragic event. Sadly, it feels we’re eons removed from the unity. I remember when President Bush spoke the words, “We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.” I had no doubt. No one did. How could we fail? We were America. 300 million of my closest friends stood ready to fight to the death to avenge the fallen. Some of them did just that.

People often ask me why I’m perpetually optimistic about our nation, its people, and its economy. I’m optimistic because I remember 9/11. In our darkest hours we rise. In our darkest hours we unify. No matter our struggles we will not tire. We will not falter. We will not fail. I’ll always remember 9/11—the day the world changed…the day our country rose together…the day I discovered what it meant to be an American. ‎”Even though I walk through the valley of shadow and death, I have no fear for you are with me.” -Psalms 23, quoted by President Bush 9/11/01.

Where were you when the world changed?

9/11 Timeline: http://timeline.national911memorial.org/