Editor’s note: The following essay is by Woody Perry, 15, a 10th-grader at Dawson County High School whose effort placed first in his grade level in the Rotary Club’s “Laws of Life” essay contest.
“Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.”
—President Harry S. Truman
Sept. 11, 2001. A day that will forever be remembered in infamy and with great sorrow. I was not old enough to understand the gravity of what was happening, but in the summer of 2013, I was honored with the opportunity to go to the 9/11 Memorial.
I had known what had happened that day and I knew that the lives that were lost were going to be mourned for a long time, but I was so deeply affected by going that it has strengthened my resolve to join the military and fight for my country and her people. When I went in we paid a small fee, but gave more as a donation to help finish the creation of the memorial. After that we went through security gates and had our backpack checked. By then the feeling surrounding the other visitors, including myself, had changed from the upbeat, quick movement of New York City to a quiet, slow, and respectful mood.
We continued our advance towards the site of the fallen buildings and the new reflecting pools that have taken their place. But as I walked, I could see gaps in the tarp. I gazed upon the still sitting rubble of the Twin Towers and took a minute to remember the news footage of the falling buildings and the horrible screams of the people trapped inside. This alone had put a feeling in my gut that just wouldn’t go away.
We continued along the path and eventually came to the two reflecting pools; they were surrounded by marble with the names of those who died that day punched out of the stone. In some of the names there were flags sticking out in honor and remembrance of loved ones. I wished I had something to leave behind, but realized that I did leave something behind. A part of me that still had doubts about my country’s decisions was gone forever.
We walked about and reflected on the choices we have made and the things that we have done for a very long time. In-between the two pools there was a tree named The Liberty Tree. While listening to the story of this tree and how it had been trapped by rubble and burned, I thought that it was the perfect symbol that we may be hurt but will survive the tough times and be strengthened through our hardships.
The last thing I looked at before I left was the Freedom Tower. A tower constructed not three blocks away from the memorial, which represents our countries strength and remembrance of those who died during those terrorist attacks.
After leaving we went to an old Irish pub where my family and I met an old, retired fireman of New York City. Around the pub were the patches of police and fire units that had come to aid in the disaster that had occurred, and we were able to talk to the old man and he told us that he now works at the memorial and that he too had brothers who had died trying to rescue trapped people. Meeting him gave me a more realistic view of the lives that were lost.
I will never forget those who died then and who have died since in the war against terrorism. They deserve the utmost respect and honor that can be given. The sacrifice of all of our brave men and women who have fought this war and are still fighting will be kept close to my heart and the hearts of my fellow citizens that will take up the call of arms to defend our glorious county and its values.
President Truman’s quote is perfect for our country. Remember the sacrifice of our soldiers and people. Honor all those who have died. I will remember you and make sure that your sacrifices are not in vain, and are remembered forever by our country and its people.