The following is an essay I submitted recently to a contest.
A hole in the American Skyline changed my life.
On September 11th, 2001, Presidents, armies, fire, wars, nations, politics, and madness broke into my four year old world. The first thing I knew was my father would be late in coming home, his plane was grounded at the San Jose airport, on his way back from a conference.
I saw images of fires coming out of two large towers, and watched our president -I was told he was in charge of our country- give a speech with school children around him. It was my introduction to government. I saw people cry.
My father brought home magazines; there was rubble, a lot of it. That was a new word for me-rubble, it meant what was left of a building-or a nation. I heard someone say that America was the greatest nation on earth. It was my introduction to patriotism.
The adults were angry at the terrorists; an image of a man who everyone said was evil- very evil. My father pointed to his picture -Osama Bin Laden- so he was responsible for all of this. He was in hiding. I wanted to know what a president was. It sparked a lesson on government. I heard people say bad things about the mayor of New York; it was my introduction to public opinion. And throughout it all I saw images of blood, of smoke, of people running.
Then came Operation Enduring Freedom. We were at war-which meant there would be killing. War to me meant guns, explosions, and planes; I assumed that was the way of the world. I knew grandpa had been in war, so war must be a perpetual thing. Everybody must do it all the time.
And then I grew up. Time passed. The images of the towers passed from magazines and newspapers to books and movies. It passed from news to history. The tears dried, the wounds closed, but the scars remained. It was only then that I learned of “conspiracy theories” and political parties. I repeated what I had heard, “America is the greatest nation in the history of the world.” I was told to be careful, unless someone stopped it from its decline, that greatness would end.
I found that war was not the common life of human kind. Not every other man was a soldier, and politics was not just making speeches. The story was more complicated. At the time of the Twin Towers Tragedy, I watched congressmen sing “God Bless America” on the steps of the capitol. But I found that not everyone was always that unified. On 9/11, men and women, both civilians and government operatives, had risked and lost their lives for others. But I found not everyone was always that courageous.
I do not know the exact moment I knew my vocation would be politics. It began slowly, I assume, but it came in the end. It had to come, it was imprinted in me. What I learned was deciding my future. Government, patriotism, and bravery.
I am fifteen, and I do not remember a time without a war.
Not long ago I was in New York. There was the Empire State Building, there was Rockefeller Center, the Stock Exchange, and all the buildings that mark American greatness in their own way, but there was an empty space in the skyline. My thinking had been shaped by that. I had learned since that day that government had problems, that we were in debt, that people were out of work, and not everyone was patriotic and brave.
But that did not matter on the day the towers went down. On that day, we understood that through unity and bravery we are strong, and through unity and bravery we will conquer-with God’s help. It is the same throughout the entire national history. There are enemies, and problems, and failures, but we do not simply succumb to them, we do what we must, and we do in spite of all that they do. It takes bravery, I learned that that day. It takes unity, I learned that to. That is how not just I, for I cannot do it alone, but that is how all of us will save America.