My sister and I (ages 18 and 20 at the time), had the privilege of visiting New York City for a couple of days approximately five weeks before the tragedy of September 11, 2001. She had just graduated high school a few weeks before, and I was about to enter my junior year of college.
The music person that she is, it had been her dream for a long time to visit a Broadway show. This didn't interest either of my parents in the least, but because it was something she really wanted, they paid for half of her expenses as a graduation gift. As the older sister, and the only one of the family who had ever been on a plane at that time, as well as the only one who was remotely interested, I was elected to join her on the trip. (No one had to twist my arm on that one, though!)
It was a pretty big adventure for two young ladies from the country to board a plane, plan out our own trip without anyone's help, and navigate the big city on our own, but we did it, and we had a fabulous time in the two-and-a-half days we were there.
We saw Phantom of the Opera live on the Broadway stage, rode the ferry out to the Statue of Liberty, risked our lives twice by riding in a NYC taxi to and from the airport, visited an authentic NYC coffee shop and the Hard Rock Cafe, walked around a small portion of Central Park and Times Square, toured Radio City Music Hall, 5th Avenue (including Tiffany's!), and St. Patrick's Cathedral, and we even saw the famous "naked cowboy" on the street corner. We opted to ride the red double-decker bus to China Town, the Empire State Building, Wall Street, and of course the Twin Towers, because those were some of the main things we wanted to see, even though we didn't have the time or money to actually tour them.
It was the trip of a lifetime, and so, when I came out of history class just a few weeks later and heard all the buzz on campus as I made my way to the post office for my shift, it all became so surreal.
I think I grew up a lot that day. I remember praying like I had never prayed before. I remember attending a candlelight memorial service on the drill field that night- so many emotions swimming around me. Because we were a military college, we knew it meant that a lot of our young men and women would probably be leaving in the coming weeks. I remember thanking God that my sister and I weren't there when all these events unfolded. I remember praying for the families of those who lost loved ones, as well as those who were brave enough to risk their lives to save the lives of others.
It's a day I will never forget, just as many across our nation will never forget, and that is why today, even though it has been 12 years, I wore my red, white, and blue proudly. God Bless America!