Today marks the 20th anniversary of 9/11 – the attacks that shook the nation to its core and changed America forever.

A picture of the American flag in front of the New York City skyline

Ask anyone over the age of 30 where they were on September 11th, 2001 and they’ll almost certainly be able to tell you; memories of that day stain the minds of millions of Americans. Some experienced it first hand, but the majority watched from their televisions, their eyes glued like magnets to the unimaginable horror that was unfolding on their screens.

20 years have passed since four planes were hijacked and used as weapons of terror and destruction against innocent civilians. Two of those planes crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City on the morning of September 11th. The third crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia and the fourth plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. Its target is unknown, but it was most likely The White House or the U.S. Capitol building.

9/11 took the lives of thousands of individuals and affected the physical and mental well-being of so many more. It resulted in the initial loss of 2,751 civilians, plus 245 more individuals who later perished from various health-related conditions.

Pedestrians watch with horror and shock at the events of 9/11

Click here to see 20 of the most powerful and historic images from that day.

From Fear and Chaos to Unity and Strength

9/11’s impact left a hole in the collective heart of America. But despite immense feelings of fear, loss, and confusion, America also saw a time of immense compassion, love, community, and selflessness. We were able to rise above the debris and ashes to create an unbreakable alliance as a country. That unification gave us the power and strength to push forward as a nation in a time of crisis. And as time has passed, the gaping wound that bled for so long has slowly begun to heal itself.

Moving Forward But Never Forgetting

As the sadness and sorrow of 9/11 slowly wane, we must not let our memory dampen along with it. As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 turns into the 30th, into the 60th, and into the 100th, we must continue to ‘never forget.’ No matter whether we were unborn or unaware at the time, 9/11 must continue to teach us that freedom can never be taken for granted. Freedom is a fine thread that can be cut from under us when we are looking the other way. In the blink of an eye, all that we value and love can be set on fire and burned to the ground.

9/11 stands as a constant reminder of the age-old battle between good and evil. The heroism, self-sacrifice, and unification of the American people stand as a beacon of light against the dark forces of repression that on that terrible day 20 years ago, sought to take those precious freedoms away from us.

To learn more about the September 11th attacks and the 20th anniversary of 9/11, click here to visit the 9/11 memorial and museum’s official website.