We all know today. It’s the day everyone remembers, or tries to remember. It’s one of the few days that we as a collective society know where we were, how old we were, with vivid images and memories of the moments and people around us.
For me, it was coming up the stairs at home, getting ready for another school day my sophomore year. My father was watching stocks on the TV, and I was about to head out the door. He told me there was an accident at the World Trade Center. As I watched the TV for several moments wondering how an accident like that could happen, a huge fireball blasted out of the second tower, throwing debris and smoke everywhere.
It was at that moment that much of life changed.
We all have those stories, on that day, and can recite them year after year. It’s been 18 years. Isn’t that just crazy to believe?
While I could share a photo of the towers from someone else’s perspective, or some thoughtful memorial, I wanted to put a little aviation twist on why 9/11 is such a big deal to me.
You see, I AM proud to be an American. On that day, I and many others felt as though our way of life and our very beliefs were being attacked. I believe to my core that America is the true land of opportunity. It’s a place known for rewarding the human spirit that want to give life their all, make something of it, and change the world.
While this isn’t necessarily an American idea, it’s a deeply human idea. These are “unalienable rights” in the “pursuit of happiness”.
What is my happiness?
It’s working to change aviation for the better.
It started simple.
It started a few months after 9/11, when in my sophomore year, I realized that I could become a pilot without going the military path (I had some medical stuff that was disqualifying, otherwise I would have been proud to serve).
The last year and a half of high school, I dedicated myself to taking ground school early and prepping for my training at state college.
Sept 11 2003 was my first official flight lesson, just 2 years after the fateful day. I acutely aware of the gravity, yet simplicity of that moment.
Less than a month later, I would solo an airplane. Me. Normal dude from the suburbs. In debt already and just loving every minute of this process. Bright eyed, and bright hopes for the future.
That’s America to me.
Woven in much of what I believe, I know I wouldn’t have that opportunity if I had been born somewhere else. While I’m PROUD to be an American, I’m also HUMBLED to be an American. My pride doesn’t come from arrogance — it comes from reverence.
That flight I took, the flights I still take, the business I’m growing, the people I get to meet, and the wonderful family I’m helping to raise in a safe and beautiful land came at a very high price. 9/11 isn’t the only even that comes to mind. Tropical beaches in the Pacific under fire, dogfighting over Germany, in the hot sands of Iraq, in the mountains of Afghanistan, on the beach of Utah and Omaha — the list goes on and on.
Yet, in one fateful day, the best and least of us regular Americans sat shaking while watching the TV, fighting back to take control of a highjacked airliner, helpless on an upper level of a burning tower, or covered in soot during a rescue. We weren’t those meant to be on the front lines.
Deeply saddened by those that perished, we shed our tears, shook off the dust, and got back to life.
So I say, today — Celebrate freedom. Celebrate life. Celebrate the opportunities afforded us. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, Celebrate that freedom that was paid at the ultimate cost.
Chief Flight Instructor and President of Angle of Attack. Founded in 2006.
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