September 11, 2001 – A day that America will never forget. Everyone seems to have their own story of the 9/11 attacks, so I thought I would share mine as we mark the 19th anniversary.

On September 11, 2001, I was in Belmont, NC (my hometown) for a funeral for a close friend. Early that morning, my father and I met at the local Bojangles for breakfast. The person taking our order paused, raised his hands to his ear with a look of disbelief, and said “Oh my God, we’re under attack.”  A plane just had just hit the World Trade Center!

Still unsure of what was going on, we returned home to watch TV to see what was happening. At that moment, the second plane flew into the World Trade Center. I knew that this was no accident.

A few hours later (as expected), my phone rang. You have been recalled to Camp Lejeune, NC. Proceed and report to Camp Lejeune immediately. I knew I had a job to do…… I knew we had a job. I was recalled,  because in early 2000 I had left active duty military service, but because of my military service obligation, I was recalled to active duty.

Upon my immediate return to duty, my team and I trained, equipped, and deployed teams immediately to New York, Washington, DC, and Boston, MA. The team’s jobs were to secure and protect the ports in these major metropolitan cities. Protect from the unknown, and be vigilant. Over the next few years, we were tasked with creating, training, and testing national response teams across the country .

As a result, I had the opportunity to meet and train people as well as to experience things that I had never seen before that time. The NYPD, FDNY, and local First Responder teams across the country shared amazing stories that were heroic but tragic. 2,996 people lost their lives; 343 of them were firefighters.

Take a moment of silence to remember them.

This tragic event changed our way of life forever. 9/11 serves as a powerful reminder of the largest loss of life from a foreign attack on American soil and the greatest single loss of rescue personnel in American history.

The good that came from 9/11 was the fact that, as a Nation, we all came together. Literally, overnight, we became patriotic. The support for first responders, our military, and our country, as whole, was moving and touching. We were proud to be Americans.

On this anniversary, I want us to focus on getting back to the way we lived as a Nation on September 12, 2001.

Reflect on what made us proud to be Americans, not letting race, gender expression, or political affiliations divide us.

Coming together as a Nation and supporting each other should be number one on our agendas and in our lives

Let us not forget!