When I was 20,
I left Los Angeles for Jerusalem,
for a small moshav with fir trees,
and the smell of the Mediterranean sea in the distance.
It was supposed to be a semester abroad
with two of my closest friends,
and 38 other students–most of whom had be planning to go on this wild and crazy adventure together since we first arrived at college.
We were at a model of the Second Temple (Herod’s)
when one student’s international cell rang–
his father told us that a plane crashed into the World Trade Center.
Nothing else, at that time.
We stopped for a moment and prayed for the passengers,
and the folks in the building,
then moved back to our lecture.
It was five in the evening–
a beautiful day in Israel.
It wasn’t until we arrived back at the moshav,
and saw the towers burning on a Hebrew broadcast of CNN
that we understood what had actually happened.
We left everything familiar and secure behind that day.
Our college decided to send all of us home–
but because of the travel restrictions,
we stayed in Israel until October 1st.
The duration of our time in Israel was a blur of hurried breakfasts,
driving out to archaeological sites,
most of us didn’t know what was going on in the U.S. until we touched down at Los Angeles International Airport,
and realized that we were returning to a different country–
a country that was terrified,
We had just ended four weeks with a people
who live with terror on a daily basis;
a people who deeply sympathized with the plight and fears of America,
but who also wanted to know if we understood why they fought
against terrorism the way they did,
if we understood why their men and women all served in the army,
if we understood the importance of standing together as a nation,
regardless of the cost.
September 11th, 2001 took the lives of thousands of people.
It changed my country.
It changed the world.
It changed me.
I can’t confidently say, ten years later,
that all of those changes were good.
But I do know this:
I am supremely grateful for every person who sacrificed their lives
on that day to save others.
I am supremely grateful for every man and woman who serves in our military,
for the constant submission of their own needs in order to allow someone like me
to post about a terrible day without fear of reprisal on a blog.
September 11th made me grateful
for all of the precious freedoms that I have as an American.
For being able to work, study, and play without living in constant fear
of death at the hands of another person who hates me simply because of my nationality.
I will never take that for granted again.