September 11, 2001 was supposed to be like every other day for us. We woke up, ate breakfast, and started getting ready for school. As I sat at the foot of my parents’ bed, lacing up my black and white checkered Vans, my dad turned on the TV.

Suddenly, everything changed.

Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center. Another hit the Pentagon. Yet another plummeted from the sky in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. What was supposed to be just another day quickly became a life-altering event for many of us. Lessons in grammar and math were replaced with lessons about the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and why bad people were trying to hurt us.

However, there is another lesson that every American learned that day and in the following months: we are a strong nation full of courageous men and women. From the bravery of the first responders, to the efforts of the search and rescue teams, to the sacrifices of those who joined our armed services, the American people responded, and we responded fiercely.

In the wake of the September 11 attacks, President Bush stood before a joint session of Congress and sent a message in no uncertain terms: “We will direct every resource at our command – every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war – to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network.”

Facing a nation in mourning and a world in shock, the President made it clear that the United States and its people would stand resolute and rise to the challenge of rebuilding and responding to these heinous acts of terror.

In the last fifteen years, more and more brave men and women have given their lives to secure our liberties at home and abroad. They joined, fought, and died to show the world that, as President Kennedy once said, “we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

In a world where fewer and fewer people remember and honor the lives lost in conflicts past, it is increasingly important that we reflect on the lives of those we lost on that fateful day in September, as well as the lives of those who have since paid the ultimate sacrifice to safeguard our freedoms.