I woke up on September 12, 2001, to rays of sunshine beaming on my face. It looked beautiful outside. It was a brand new day, and the terrible dream about the day prior seemed to be over. I walked over to my bedroom window and I opened it.
I inhaled the air, expecting the crisp, fresh smell of a New York September morning, a scent that I loved so much. But my heart quickly sank. I smelled something different. I smelled something that will never leave my memory for as long as I shall live. I smelled burnt flesh.
The reality sent shivers down my spine. The gray ashes that covered my friends and neighbors, who spent six hours walking the bridge from Manhattan back home to Staten Island on the day prior, the ashes that coated their bodies head-to-toe, were not just ashes from the fallen buildings. They were also the ashes of the people inside of the buildings.
“It smells like Auschwitz,” I whispered to myself, as I looked back at the stack of Holocaust books next to my bed. My eyes filled with tears. I closed that window and just stared out at the world for a while. I realized that yesterday wasn’t a dream. September 11 did happen.
I will never forget that moment.
It was 17 years ago. But that moment is as clear in my mind as a moment from 17 minutes ago. It was the moment when I, a 17-year-old at the time, grew up. It was the moment that I realized that the atrocities of the past that I have been reading about are not confined to the past. It was the moment that I realized that the present and the future could be as cruel as the past. It was the moment that I understood that on the day prior, New York had met evil.
The evil that turned thousands of people into ashes was radical Islam.
That evil permeates our world still. We continue to battle ominous Islamic fundamentalism to this day. We have been unable to defeat the ideology of destruction. But we cannot rest until we do.
We must never forget. We must never ameliorate the evil. We must persist. The ideology of life and freedom, the philosophy of American values, must win over the ideology of death, the doctrine of radical Islam.