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Where were you 17 years ago?

This week I was approached by the Nicholasville Fire Department to write a story that forced me to remember a date in history not too long ago which will forever be embedded in the minds of many Americans, 9/11.

At only 18 years old the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I can still remember where I was, how I felt and what it meant for the American people as we stood collectively and watched the Twin Towers fall to the ground.

Ask the person next to you, and they too will likely be able to tell you where they were, how they felt and what it was like to watch our nation be forever changed after the attacks in New York City — much like many older Americans are able to recount their days when President John F. Kennedy was shot, or Pearl Harbor was attacked the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.

When gathered around the local fire department’s table, I found it hard not to avert my eyes as facts were brought up I had never heard before and what happened that day almost 17 years ago. Being told 2,977 people were killed, of which were 343 firefighters and 72 police officers, it is hard to fathom what must have happened, how horrific of an event the attack actually was for those at Ground Zero and what the families of those who lost their lives must still be going through to this day.

Having lived through it as an outsider looking in, I know I will never be able to understand or comprehend the magnitude of what that day still holds for many Americans I walk alongside every day.

As if those facts were not enough to bring immediate tears to my eyes, the fact that since then, 2,000 first responders and workers have died from 9/11-related illnesses, 68 different kinds of cancer have been diagnosed from the dust and debris from the attack and 83,000 Americans are currently enrolled in the World Trade Center Health program for cancer, breathing problems and PTSD, I couldn’t help but be filled with sadness reaching deep into the pit of my stomach.

Like the rest of the nation, I remember watching the news in complete and utter disbelief as the first tower fell. Still not able to process what had happened, why it was happening and what the people in New York must be going through, my world crashed along with the second tower as I could not believe what I was seeing, and for lack of better words, swore I must still be dreaming as I watched the dust bellow up into the clouds.

Standing alone in my living room after a message from my mother to turn on the news, I can still remember the shrill yells of those under attack as I sat and watched with the rest of America, mourning an existence which seemed so secure only moments before.

Forever indebted to those who picked up our nation’s flag and marched into battle after the Sept. 11 attacks, I believe we owe more gratitude than we as a nation can ever give to first responders everywhere who, without question, ran to the scene that day and knowingly risked their lives to save another.

In less than one month, we as a nation will celebrate another year since time paused, we all held our breath and our nation virtually joined hands waiting to hear how bad the aftermath was.

Sitting this week with NFD, I was reminded of how important it is to still remember that day. I was also reminded of how important it is to still talk about those events and share it with the younger generation who will never fully understand the magnitude of its significance in American history because they did not live through it.

Like myself, I hope you all join me in thanking your local first responders for what they do and how they keep the memory alive of those who have gone before them and taken the oath to serve and protect the communities in which they serve and never made it home to their families.

I thank your local NFD firefighters for keeping that memory alive and hope they will continue to do so for many years to come.

Brittany Fuller is the community editor of The Jessamine Journal and Jessamine Life magazine. She can be reached at brittany.fuller@jessaminejournal.com.