The story of America has a theme for the 21st Century; it is one of resilience. Ground Zero defines what adversity means and how to overcome it. This Sept. 11, 18 years ago, the day felt anything but normal. I remember that morning in our office in Fullerton, we closed it for two days and sent everyone to be with their families and pray to their faiths and beliefs.

The terrorist attacks on 09/11/2001 turned our world upside down and stuck fear and anger into the hearts of millions. For my fellow Americans who were victims of international terrorism and people watching on television, or those who lost loved ones, the images of that day will never be forgotten. The attacks that day will stay with us as a defining moment. 9/11 is a day of remembrance for those who were taken too soon and for those who sacrificed their lives to save others.

My two young kids triggered a raft of questions about war and hatred and intolerance, about fear and uncertainty, about al-Qaeda and why they can’t stand Americans. Who’s bin Laden? Where were the planes coming from? Where were they going? Were there passengers on them? How many people died? Were any babies killed? They learnt some at school.

We took them and spent a whole day learning about New York’s resilience at the 9/11 Tribute Museum and One World Observatory, and Lower Manhattan’s history and the events of 9/11 as they unfold through the 9/11 Tribute Museum galleries with guided tours, saw the city’s resilience firsthand at the top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.

We explored the museum’s galleries to learn about the historic events of the 9/11 attacks, the unprecedented rescue and recovery operations, and the tremendous spirit of support and generosity that followed. They also listened to personal experiences of survival, loss, and healing from people that were there, and visited important sites near Ground Zero through a guided tour of the 9/11 Memorial led by 9/11 survivors, family members of lost loved ones, first responders, recovery workers, and people who lived and worked in Lower Manhattan at the time of the attacks.

The visit put the history and stories into perspective by the museum visit and a trip to the One World Observatory. Positioned on levels 100, 101, and 102 of the One World Trade Center building, One World Observatory provides unique, panoramic views of New York City, its most iconic sites and surrounding waters. These three floors allow visitors an incomparable space to reflect and remember the events of 9/11 and, together with the World Trade Center building itself, act as an enduring beacon of hope and determination for people all around the world.

Today we continue to fight for our most sacred possession: the right to live as a free people. When I see the flag waving or hear “The Star-Spangled Banner,” pledge my allegiance to the flag, I feel a real sense of pride. I truly hope our nation never forgets, because I know I never will – FREEDOM IS NOT FREE!

9/11 is an unfortunate event that we, as Americans, have witnessed and suffered through together; the attacks hurt the entire country. We should remember 9/11 because there is a greater need today, now than ever to remind us that we are one nation despite our differences, the craziness of media and political battles.

9/11 brought America together. Our diverse nation flew the American flag, donated blood and gathered for candlelight vigils together. On the steps of the Capitol, Republicans and Democrats in Congress sang “God Bless America” as one voice. 9/11 reminds us what it means to come together despite our differences on race, nationality, religion and status in society and what not. This is what defines our great nation. It has in the past, and it can and should be our priority in the present.

This day reminds millions of immigrants like me of the greatness of America. Our values will endure. Our people will thrive. Our nation will prevail. And the memory of our loved ones will never, ever die. May God forever bless the great United States of America.

Sunil Tolani

Los Angeles, Calif.

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