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What does 9/11 mean to me?

As the 20th anniversary approached, 9/11 became a more prominent element in my everyday life.  I always remembered and honored 9/11 in past years but never stopped to realize the real and complete meaning of the event and what occurred afterward.

In the past few years, I began realizing the ultimate sacrifice that our veterans and active-duty service members have given for our nation and families.  I had always supported the military community but never thought about the sacrifice beyond their own life.  And that was my ignorance and selfishness.

Supporting our veterans and active duty is not enough in my eyes as I learn more that my support was not the proper support.  I did not understand that emotional support is one piece of the bigger picture.  My support must go beyond emotion and become a physical presence in my everyday life.  I have always supported by donating and having compassion, but I never understood what it meant to support.  As my journey continues with RJ’s Mission, I am discovering my humility and selflessness by giving back in service to those that serve.

I have learned the ultimate sacrifice is how these brave men and women not only served to protect our freedom but gave up the everyday things we take for granted.  Our military service members may never have a family, see their kids grow up, attend a friend’s wedding, a relative’s funeral, or wake up knowing their family is safe.  When you put all that aside for others you do not know, you are a savior, a warrior, a protector, and a peacemaker to our nation.

“My first reaction was to head home and grab what I needed to get out of town”

When 9/11 occurred, I remember the feeling of loss, fear, and panic.  My first reaction was to head home and grab what I needed to get out of town.

Many of my friends felt the same way as we prepared to take a trip out to the Shenandoah Mountain range.  It was a natural reaction at the time but slowing it all down the many victims and people that suffered afterward is enormous, along with the feeling of uncertainty.  As years passed, I constantly remembered and prayed for those families during their time of loss, only to realize I lost nothing.

That statement is not intended to destroy the security we felt before 9/11 in the United States.  It is meant to put my feelings of loss aside because that day never left us.  Those families lost innocent loved ones, and those that jumped into action are our heroes who continue to suffer from the after-effects.  9/11 and the aftermath showed our nation many things.  Our everyday heroes came to the rescue without questions, sacrificing their lives for others.  Our community of neighbors, friends, and family enlisting to protect our country from foreign enemies.  We must honor their sacrifice.

9/11/2021 was the year my wife and I participated in the 9/11 Heroes Run for the first time without a second thought.  We were not supporting anyone but all those unknown to us because we realized we could do better.  We can do more, and sometimes more is not enough.  Both of us cried during the opening ceremonies, which is when it came together.  On this day, we felt what we should do each day from the beginning on 9/12/01, unity.  We are in the right place with like-minded people, and as I struggled each step to finish the 5k, I was moving towards my commitment to the people I will never know, yet they gave it all for me.

My Covenant

My covenant each day now is to honor our fallen heroes by helping their families, to support our veterans, active duty, and first responders when called upon, and I will do so without question.  Our freedom is never stronger shoulder to shoulder with unity formed from 9/11/01.  Serving those that serve is a greater cause than yourself.  This, I believe.