And the greatest is love.

9/11. There’s no explanation needed after those three numbers. Mention them and you will evoke stories of what people remember from that day and even years following.

It has been 16 years since that horrific attack on our nation and any American old enough to remember can tell you every detail of what they did that day. For me, I was a 15-year-old high school sophomore. I stayed home from school sick that day. My dad went to work and my mom and I were still sleeping, ignoring the nonstop phone ringing. I remember being half asleep when my aunt burst into our house screaming, crying, “we’re under attack! The towers! They’ve been hit.” She had just returned from a business trip from New York City the week before. I still had the new, cool dissolving mint breath strips she brought back for me that you could only find in a big city in my backpack. Of course, we had no idea what she was talking about, but as soon as she turned on our TV, no further explanation was needed.

We cried, we gathered, we prayed. My now husband’s aunt and uncle work in the Pentagon and I sat with his family as we waited to hear if they were dead or alive. It all felt so surreal. Like something you would see in a movie. But it was really happening. All the fear, all the terror was really happening.

Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Did you stand there in shock at the sight of that black smoke
Risin’ against that blue sky?
Did you shout out in anger, in fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry?
Did you weep for the children who lost their dear loved ones
And pray for the ones who don’t know?
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below?
Did you burst out with pride for the red, white and blue
And the heroes who died just doin’ what they do?
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself and what really matters?

On that day, what really mattered? Family and friends. It didn’t matter why kind of clothes we owned. It didn’t matter if our neighbor bought a nicer car than us. It didn’t matter that the kids just made a mess in the freshly cleaned basement. All that mattered that day was that we were surrounded by the ones we loved the most.

Our hearts broke for the lives lost and the families ruined. We felt guilty to be with the ones who meant the most to us when we knew there were countless others who would never have that chance again.

The stories will never end and our hearts will never stop breaking no matter how much time passes.

I listened to a 9/11 widow recall her last conversation with her husband who was trapped on the 105th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center this morning. I sat in my bedroom alone, and I bawled.

6 years ago, Andy and I were on vacation with some friends, sharing a hotel room in DC. As it was the 10th anniversary of the attacks, there were countless specials airing. As we crawled into our jammies and got ready for bed, we started to watch one of the specials. Then another, then another. No one said a word. All you could hear were the silent sobs of the four of us. We cried because we were saddened by the pain of so many others, but also because we still take so many days for granted.

“I like to think of myself as living life for both of us now.” -Beverly Eckert

When did this change? I know I’m guilty of getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of adulting. I get upset at my boss over an irritating email. I take out my bad day on my spouse. I get annoyed with the dog because she just won’t leave me alone. How these people a thousand miles away would long to just go to work or see their wife one more time. To come home and have the worst part of walking through the door be an overly excited dog.

How quickly we tend to forget the bigger picture of life. Love. Every day should be lived in love because, in the end, love is all that matters. Love for our family. Love for our friends. Love for our neighbors. And love for ourselves.

But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love

This time last year, I was blessed enough to meet for the first time, the two newest members of my inner circle. Two beautiful baby boys who reminded me with their innocent faces and simple grip of my finger that with every life, a new promise of love and hope is born.

Somewhere along the way, we lose that innocence. Life happens. There are things we could never foresee. But even though we can’t prevent or change them, we can live through them. And not just in the way of, survival. I mean really live. We have to keep the promise of hope alive. We must continue to love. We mustn’t get bitter, we must get better.

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