On this very day back in 2015, I was in New York City. I spent most of the afternoon exploring lower Manhattan and kept coming back to Ground Zero, again and again, magnetized by the overpowering energy oozing from the spot, tears welling up in my eyes.
I remember that day 17 years ago. Just a kid, fresh into second grade, I got to school and found out that something terrible had happened. Our teacher gathered us in a big concert hall, and we held a minute of silence, a moment I will never forget.
It must have been the first time I truly realized, felt rather, that essentially we're all the same. No matter how many thousands of miles lie between us, we all want the same things—to live a peaceful life and know that our loved ones and our friends will get back home from work tonight, and tomorrow, and every day after.
Being in New York City 14 years later felt very special. I could feel this deep connection with the city, my feet firmly rooted in its loud and defiant streets, my head all but spinning from the dazzling views of skyscrapers and the air that smells like pizza, hope and freedom.
There are two pools right by the 9/11 Memorial Museum with the victims' names inscribed on the bronze panels around them. I spent a long time standing near one of them, taking in the water flowing down the sides and into the dark drain at the bottom, soothingly splashing and washing up all these memories.
Later in the evening I couldn’t stop looking at another gripping tribute—two bold beams of light rising high, piercing the night sky, solemn and resilient, their powerful message as clear as the image of the twin towers forever frozen in my mind’s eye: we will rebuild, we will become even stronger, we will never forget.
Lastly, and this is important, we should always know what it is that we must never forget—we can’t ever be defeated or destroyed as long as we don’t let fear, hate and the idea of otherness overtake us and tear apart our hearts, this nation and the entire world.