Fifteen years later, what’s really crazy to me about 9/11 is some people will never be able to remember.

A few days ago, when my soon-to-be stepson came home from school and I asked him what he learned that day, he responded simply, “9/11. We’re supposed to ask you guys what you remember about that day.”

Here’s what I remember about that day: Everything.

Sept. 11, 2001 is a day that is so ingrained in my head, I can never forget.

***

Until a few days ago, it somehow never occurred to me that my stepson hadn’t lived through 9/11, that he hadn’t forgotten - he had just never known about it.

It somehow never occurred to me that so many people will grow up not remembering 9/11. The day was so powerful for me, it just didn’t register that so many people don’t share that experience. So many high school athletes I talk with on a daily basis weren’t affected by that day like I have been for so much of my life.

***

I wasn’t that much older than my stepson.

I remember walking through the front door after school and seeing my mother’s face.

“I assume you’ve heard,” she said.

I hadn’t heard.

Like my stepson now, I was in middle school on Sept. 11, 2001. I had just turned 12 and was a fresh seventh-grader in my hometown in Virginia about two hours southwest of Washington D.C., where my dad lived at the time.

I later learned because of our age, the administration decided not to alert the students of the tragedy that was unfolding all around us. I also later learned my brother, an eighth grader, had used the computer lab in class that day, and when students logged onto the Internet browser’s homepage of CNN.com, the administration had no control.

He had heard. But I hadn’t heard.

 

***

I remember the frantic feeling of dialing my dad’s cell phone and hearing “All circuits are busy. Please try your call again later.”

I remember watching the news with my mom, learning about the day’s events in a panic, uncertain of what to think, what to feel. I was so young.

I remember the scheduled visit to my dad that weekend, the debate if my brother and I should go to the city, the decision for Mom to drive us in and the absolute horror of driving by the Pentagon on Interstate 395, unable to grasp the destruction which was still clearly visible.

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I remember visiting New York City for the first time that December - more than three months later - and the smell in the air at Ground Zero, the smell I wondered would ever go away.

***

We all remember the 2,977 victims who died on Sept. 11, 2001. But today, and every day, we also must remember those who gave their lives after.

As much as 9/11 affected by life, it pales in comparison to that of my fiancé, who is an Operation Iraqi Freedom combat veteran. He was a hero for 15 months, serving our country in a place worse than the most gruesome scary movie, and he continues to be my hero today.

***

Every year, Sept. 11 is hard to swallow. It floods memories of something so tragic I don’t think any words could describe. It reminds us how much our world has changed, and how different our society is today. And because of my fiancé, it pains my heart and aches my stomach even more than it once did.

Fifteen years later, it’s now my job as a soon-to-be stepparent to explain why we never forget this day, why we never forget those who sacrificed and why Sept. 11 has such an impact on our family in particular.

I may never be able to put into words the sadness, respect, honor, anger, brokenness, pride, courage, dismay and pensiveness I feel every year on this day. But I do know that every time I stand during the National Anthem at a sporting event, or a football team hosts its annual Veterans Appreciation Night, or Junior ROTC members parade the colors at a high school game, my heart skips a beat and my mind reflects on this day more than others, the 2,977 lost then and the countless sacrifices since. And whether the boys and the girls on the field or the court know it or not, our lives will never be the same, and we can never forget.

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