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Michelle Turnberg, Published September 11 2011

Turnberg: Pride in nation deepens

I was sitting at my kitchen counter having coffee and watching the “Today” show. I was about to leave for the class I was teaching at Concordia College when the first image appeared on television. Live video showed a gaping hole and smoke pouring out of the World Trade Center. A plane had just flown into one of the towers, but surely it was a tragic mistake? It was just a few minutes later when “the world stopped turning.” I watched as that second plane slammed into the other tower, knowing the plane and building were full of people.

What were you doing, and how are things different 10 years later?

That was a surreal time. As the day unfolded, it seemed as if the world was coming to an end. Another plane hit the Pentagon. Another went down in a field in Pennsylvania. Surely things would never be the same.

What I remember most immediately following the attacks were the stories about the people on board those planes, in the buildings, and the rescuers on the ground. There were the stories of wives who had said goodbye to their husbands for the last time that morning; the parents who had dropped off their children at day care one final time; and the mother who would never be able to tell her son again how proud she was he was working in New York City.

Then there were the wars that followed and all of the lives lost. The only newscast I was ever unable to complete happened the day my college friend was killed in Iraq. Marine Sgt. Bryan Opskar of Princeton, Minn., died when his vehicle was struck by a makeshift bomb while conducting combat operations near Ar Rutbah, Iraq. His death made the sacrifices our men and women in uniform are making more real to me. He is my constant reminder of the price of freedom.

It’s surreal to think a decade has gone by since that day. So much has happened in my own life, yet it feels like it was just yesterday that 9/11 happened. When I think back to that time, I remember, after the initial shock, how the country gathered in solidarity. How we found our strength in patriotism. How I would see the American flag being flown from nearly every home.

Today is a reminder to remember those who died that day, and the days that followed. To once again put out my flag, show my American pride and remind myself how blessed I am to live in this great country. Today reminds me how average Americans united and found the courage to stand up, shout “let’s roll,” and fight terrorists.

So much about the world has changed, and so have many of us. We are likely more aware, less naïve, and, I hope, more patriotic. I will never complain about X-rays at the airport or long security lines. I will always stand with my hand over my heart every time the national anthem is played. And I will always be proud to be an American.

Turnberg writes a Sunday column for The Forum.