Sept. 10, 2011 at 4:10 a.m.

Editor's Note: We asked our readers to tell us "What 9/11 means to me." We received a lot of responses and here they are.

The writer of the best essay wins two movie passes.

The Winner:

What 9/11 means to me

I was in the third grade when I witnessed the horror of 9/11 unravel on the news. That day panic spread through the halls as the world stood still for many people, both people on ground zero and for those glued to their TV sets to see who had done such a thing to us.

One thing I saw among all the wreckage, tragedy and fear was compassion as people of different backgrounds carried each other out of the wreckage; it was there when I saw what made us the United States of America.

That night, sirens, breaking news and screams for help filled the television. It didn't take long when the next day American flags were raised and signs filled the yards of many neighborhoods reading. "God bless America," "United we stand," and "Proud to be an American," as we showed the world here we are, ready to fight.

Bianca Gonzales, Yoakum

NYC first responder

Two months before 9/11, I started working at New York City's Office of Chief Medical Examiner. The day the towers fell, I headed to the only mode of transportation back into Manhattan - the water taxis whose captains were voluntarily carrying New Jersey-based officials and emergency staff across the river. When we arrived, there was no screaming, no yelling, just dust-covered figures walking silently, like ghosts, through a field of gray and white. Papers still fluttered to the ground, shoes were scattered in the thick ash and dust, and a huge gaping hole filled with fire and twisted metal stood where the World Trade Center towers should have been.

Although I normally keep the memory of that day, and those that followed, in a safe and remote place in my head, I make time to reflect on the events every Sept. 11. I recall the horror we felt in the aftermath of the attacks and the difficulty we all had accepting both the sheer number of people lost and the manner in which they died. I remember the silence that fell over New York for days after the attacks and how much nicer we were to each other. I came to feel grateful to have found myself in a position to help the victims and their families and I was proud of how our nation united after the devastation. Having defended my conservative roots for so long, I was pleased with the staunch support and pride New Yorkers felt for President Bush, our government, and the military during our recovery. I unlock these memories around this time every year and I tell someone what we saw and felt that day - so we never forget.

Rebecca Schultheiss, Houston formerly of Victoria

We will always be one nation under God

9/11/2001, I left class and headed to my dorm, turned on the TV, and saw the two towers burning in New York. The United States was under attack. In all honesty, my first thoughts were of the end of the world: Armageddon. I called my grandmother, and hearing her voice, I knew whatever was happening in our world, my world would be OK. My college campus was near Fort Hood. High school classmates, my boyfriend, college classmates were now involved in war. But even in uncertainty, we were unified. Our nation unified behind our soldiers, first responders, the victims and their families, fervent in prayer and quick in action. Remember, hope for our nation lives; the lives sacrificed in these 10 years will never be forgotten, and their honor lives on; let us continue our fervent prayers and quick support because we will always be one nation under God.

Elda M. Luera, Port Lavaca

Do not let us forget

Hug your children close my dears, and give them hugs like it was the first time you saw them. For you do not know when you send them off to the office, school, or out to play if you will ever see them again. Do not take these gifts of love for granted, for your whole life can change in a split second, like the lives of so many on that fateful day of 9/11 did.

Will we ever learn from world events? How soon do we forget the lessons learned on that day and go about living our lives as if we have another day, week, month or years - we who are so busy, rushing to and fro, forgetting what matters most. Stop what you're doing, whether it is watching the monster TV that robs us of our most intimate times together and with our God, or that video game that bewitches our minds. If you must play games, play games that will include all members of the ones you love. For this moment, this moment that I am writing, will never come gain, but will be lost in time forever.

If you have someone to talk with, someone to go for a walk with, or someone to love, you are especially fortunate. How fortunate we are as Americans to have our young ones to fight our battles in a land so far away for something we call democracy. Do Not Let Us Forget Them, Do Not Let Us Forget the families who have given up loved ones just so we can go about our daily lives. And Do Not Let Us forget those who may be sitting home alone tonight without a father, mother or brother. Do Not Let Us Forget those who rushed to that site, to give aid to others, even though it meant their life. Do Not Let Us Forget to be united as a country to fight the plagues of poverty and economic woes. Do Not Let Us become a divided nation that fights one another to its death. Do Not Let Us Forget to love one another as ourselves and love our neighbors. Do Not Let Us become a land of people with hearts so hardened we do not give aid to others. Do Not Let Us pass by the homeless and simply say I am glad that is not me, but reach out a helping hand that says I am happy to have you as a part of our humanity.

Jane Krause, Victoria

What 9/11 means to me: Give thanks

With a jolt, we were witnessing smoke pouring out of the first tower of the New York City's World Trade Center. With first reports, were hopes this was somehow a horrible accident. As the second tower was struck, all realized this was no accident.

As often in times of trouble or concern, my thoughts went to my now deceased parents. Dad had been a pilot in World War II, Mom worked in a uniform company. Both had lived through the Great Depression and the war. For the first time, I was grateful my parents did not see 9/11. I truly believe I was devastated enough for all my family.

In a strange way, 9/11 took me back to the sadness of President Kennedy's death.

As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, I hope all Americans give thanks for all who have gone forth in call of our country.

Jo Cornstubble, Victoria

1941 to 9/11

So much evil in believing that others see the world just as we do.

- Robert Cording

1941: Is my love big enough to enclose Jews, intellectuals, homosexuals, artists, handicapped, Gypsies, and the Dietrich Bonhoeffer's of this world?

9/11: Is my love big enough to seek remembrance, acceptance, a thirst for justice ... peace?

1941 to 9/11: Then and now, 70 years later, how could it still be? How do we see "the other?" How does "the other" see?

Barbara Tieken, Shiner

A truly amazing nation

On 9/11/01 thousands of Americans watched as the two trade centers became nothing but piles of rubble and ash. This day is most important to me because as perfect as this country of freedom seems, there are still so many differences between all of us as human beings, but on this day, we pushed aside those differences and became one nation. It's the day everyone came together and prayed, helped, suffered and donated time, money, and love to those missing, the survivors, and the families of those affected by this tragedy. This day reminds me that we still have compassion for each other and that we will personally sacrifice ourselves to save the lives of people we've never even met. This devastating event proved that no matter how selfish we are as a person, we have the ability to be truly amazing as a nation.

Karen Leach, Victoria

The domino effect

My memories of 9/11 are allegorical. In adolescence, I would fix dominos so that after the first one fell it would knock down the second and so on in a chain reaction. This is called the domino effect.

Al-Qaida believes the world must be cleansed of unbelievers to their religion. The effects of their religious faith resulted in 2,996 dominos falling on 9/11 attacks. An additional 900 dominos fell - the heroic First Responders. Another 4,474 dominos have fallen as of July 18, 2011 - deaths within our U.S. Armed Forces. U.S. soldiers, serving for longer and multiple deployments, continue the domino effect one-by-one resulting in record high suicide rates. Consequently, as of October 2010, this chain reaction has resulted in 150,726 Iraqi deaths both civilian and combatants.

It has been said insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Danny G. Perez, Victoria

September 11th - What it means to me

On the morning of the Twin Towers attack, I began my day with business as usual by heading into work. As the news of the attacks spread through the mall, I was instructed to close up shop and head home for the day. Immediately, I knew life for all Americans had a brutal confrontation with reality, and the status quo we cherished for so long would no longer exist. A brave new world dawned while the realization occurred I could not continue on my life's course trajectory oblivious to those around me. Cultures and ethnic groups, who do not share my same values and spirituality, may despise what those apparent core values represent. Without compromising my beliefs, I have learned to respect other people/group's paradigm differences, while diminishing any unintended affront to those whose way of life is vastly different from mine.

Phillip Schwab, Fort Worth

What 9/11 means to me

As I watched the airplanes hit the World Trade Center, I immediately knew that this was the end of what was left of the U.S. Constitution. Within three days, the Patriot Act was passed into law, effectively nullifying the Bill of Rights. Warrantless wiretaps, legalized torture and secret government prisons reminiscent of Josef Stalin are now the norm. An increasingly militarized federal police force now assumes everyone is a criminal.

In the years since, we have seen endless unsuccessful wars started in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Libya. No doubt Syria and Iran are next on the list.

The worst part of the 9/11 event was that I realized my engineering training was useless. Properly constructed steel buildings do not collapse when on fire, nor do buildings such as the World Trade Center Building 7, which was not on fire or hit by an airplane. But apparently, the official government fairy tale about 9/11 can trump the laws of physics.

Scott Smart, Westhoff

What 9/11 Means To Me

I could not believe what I saw on television on 9/11/2001, our great country being violated in this or any other way.

We are strong, capable and all knowing, but yet something like this could happen. To watch people falling and jumping from windows was unbelievable. How could we not be more protective of our great nation and be able to anticipate such an event?

Our nation did come together the best we could. Ways were put in place to not let this happen again. It made us stronger, angrier and more determined to protect ourselves in the future. We are still with faith on that path.

My keepsake from that time is a gray Teddy bear put out by Dillard's, commemorative of the happening. He sits in a rocking chair day after day - wearing his red, white and blue sweater with the U.S. flag on the front and U.S.A. monogrammed on one foot. He is my reminder of what happened on 9/11/2001.

Jane Deaton, Victoria

The following essays were contributed by sixth- and seventh-graders of Nazareth Academy. The students studied 9/11 in class and these are their thoughts.

People are still fighting

When I think of 9/11, I think of the people who died, and the terrorists who caused it. Even though I was very young and do not remember any of it, I have seen the attacks in newspapers and saw the collapse of the Twin Towers with my classmates on the video. I think of all the people who went to work, school and stayed at home having an ordinary day. They had no idea that there was anything wrong. I think of how they must have felt when they lost friends and family.

Some people may feel safer with bin Laden gone, but there are still people fighting for our safety so we don't have to worry about terrorist attacks. 9/11 reminds me that there were so many brave people trying to save others, and even now there are people dying to keep us safe.

McKenna Hayes

It was sad

To me, 9/11 was sad. It was sad because innocent people died. When this terrorist attack happened, I was 1 year old. I know that at that age I did not know or understand what happened. I recently learned about 9/11 in my reading class. I just wish I could take that moment back or tell them it was going to happen. After the first plane, all they could think about was, "Am I going to live or die?" I think that the people who lived or died during 9/11 would be happy because we captured bin Ladin. I think it is better without him because he can never do what he did to the Twin Towers again or hurt any more people.

Dorayne Morales

Never lose hope

"Our enemies have made the mistake that America's enemies always make. They saw liberty and thought they saw weakness. And now, they see defeat." - George W. Bush

When I read this quote, I truly understand the meaning of 9/11. It means that when America's enemies saw our freedom from control or restriction, they thought they saw weakness. But in all reality, it was this very factor that brought about their defeat.

When I read about what happened on 9/11, I felt the uncertainty of not knowing what the future might hold. When I saw the video when the two buildings fell and the metal bats made a cross, I knew God was present. Seeing God's presence in this tragic accident has inspired me to never lose hope, no matter what situation I encounter in my life.

John Howard

I was so scared

To me, 9/11 was just a horrible day, even though I was only a year old. I've heard and seen pictures of the horrifying ordeal in New York. After I learned what happened when I was older, I was so scared, and I wasn't even one of the people who died or witnessed the Twin Towers collapse. When we think about bin Laden, I just feel like being a better person than what I am. Also, when my teacher showed me the image of the devil in the smoke of the Twin Towers, it just gave me the chills. While 9/11 will always be one of America's greatest tragedies, we have to think of the good that it brings. All of the brave people who sacrificed their lives, the ones who worked hard to rescue others, and how all Americans embraced each other is what makes me feel proud and honored to call myself an American.

Jenna Alegria

I feel blessed

Sept. 11, 2001, was a day that no American will forget - especially my parents. They have visited the World Trade Center. They remember it as a gorgeous building filled with offices, restaurants and even a train station. My dad actually worked there in 1986. He still says that it was the best building he has ever seen. Of all the stories I have heard about to this day, one really stands out. When I visited my aunt this summer, she told me that she worked at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. Fortunately, she had to go to a morning meeting on the other side of town. She took the subway and left the World Trade Center minutes before the first tower went down. I feel blessed that I did not lose any family in this tragedy, but I know that not all Americans were that lucky.

Reina Hingoranee

In someone else's shoes

Even though I was nearly 2 at the time, just reading and learning about how 9/11 has affected people and our country makes me feel sad. When I first started to read about 9/11 in class, I didn't realize it would make me feel terrible. We learned about how people were traumatized by 9/11 and watched a news report at the time of the bombing. I was putting myself in somebody else's shoes who experienced it. I would have been so afraid and thanked God for everything. Then we read a story about a girl who was our age, at the time. It was amazing to hear her story. She said people couldn't leave their houses because of all the gasses still in the air. I felt bad for all the people who died and their kids who became orphans that day. 9/11 will always be a day of remembrance.

Gabby Rodriguez

War means we're killing the bad guys

To me, 9/11 was a bloody massacre of innocent victims and brave heroes. If I had been there, I would have tried to save those people who were on the top floors. If I were on one of the planes, I would have tried to crash the plane before it hurt hundreds and hundreds of people. 9/11 means a lot to me because my cousin, Adam, is fighting in Afghanistan because of 9/11. I also know that it means a lot to the relatives of people who died in 9/11. I also know that many people just want to bomb Afghanistan, but we can't because there are also a lot of innocent people over there too. War means we're killing the bad guys and not just killing everybody.

Kyle Smejkal

Not the end of us

9/11 was very tragic. Even though I was one year old, I could understand what was going on then. Also I feel bad for the innocent people who died in the plane crash in the Twin Towers.

Now, since the U.S. military got bin Ladin, I hope that it won't happen again. The United States is protected with all kinds of guards like the Army, cops, firefighters, and the important thing is that the United States did not end because of 9/11. It was tragic, but not the end of us.

Caleb Miranda

We can change

9/11 stands for sadness, tragedy, learning and moving on. 9/11 is where a lot of people died from terrorists who hijacked planes and crashed into the World Trade Center. That's where thousands of people who worked to feed their families every single day died. This attack was meant to wound our country and make us suffer. Instead, it made us stronger, not weaker. I suppose that we should learn from it and try to fix it and make things better. If we let the terrorists' attack hold us down, then we must push through it to make it to the other side and not be left behind. I think that we can learn from it and make our lives better, not worse. We shouldn't forget it but learn from it. What's done is done; we can't change that, but we can change.

Trevor Gloor

How could they be so mean?

Sept. 11 was very depressing because of the destruction it caused. How could the terrorists be so mean and violent? I never thought about how so many people could die so quickly.

I do not know anyone overseas right now. Both my great-grandpas fought in World War II. Great-Grandpa Elo worked on airplanes as a mechanic, and Great-Grandpa Bennie flew on bombing missions. Also, my great-great-grandpa was in World War I.

I was happy they got bin Laden because of all the things he did. He did not care if people died. That made me sad.

Sept. 11 will never be the same because of this terrible tragedy. I feel bad for the children who are born on Sept. 11. This day will be remembered. Well, I hope no more people crash the best things such as the White House and Eiffel Tower.

Alex Nagle

Respect others' beliefs

Sept. 11, 2001, made a big impact on the United States. For me, I feel deep pain for the people who died in the buildings, in the planes and in an open field for no reason. Sept. 11 affected so many families. Everyone in the United States mourned over this event, wives lost their husbands, and children lost their parents. The pain was felt by everyone in this country.

It was a senseless attack. The attack was truly about religion and faith. It saddens me that people think their religion should be the only religion allowed. God loves us all no matter what religion we are. He doesn't judge us this way, so why should we?

There is one good lesson to be learned from this tragic event. Not everyone shares the same beliefs. We must respect other people's beliefs, even if we don't agree with them and even if they don't agree with ours.

Gabriel Venegas

I will never forget

9/11 was a sad and shocking day. Al-Qaida attacked us and more than 3,000 people died for no reason. Many of the people who died were regular people going to their jobs. Also, firemen and policemen died trying to save others. I don't understand why they hate us so much. I feel sad for the families of all the people who died and are still missing their loved ones. It was only last year when we got bin Laden, and I am very happy because he was our enemy. I feel much safer now that Osama is gone. I have a friend named Chris who is a captain in the Army. He is fighting in Afghanistan to keep us safe. I pray for Chris and all of the other soldiers. I will never forget the tragic day of 9/11 and the victims.

Lane Stewart

A very sad and sorrowful day

9/11 means a whole lot to me. I don't have any family members fighting overseas, but I do have an idea what their families feel like. I find 9/11 very sad and frightening, but also it was on my sister's birthday.

In May 2011, I was very glad when I got the news that Osama bin Laden was captured and killed. I kept trying to figure out what was going through his head. I remember in 2006, Sept. 11, my sister was watching the horrible scenes of 9/11 silently crying on our family's computer desk. It hurt me when I saw her cry like that on her birthday because of those wicked terrorists. The 10th anniversary will be a very sad and sorrowful day.

Caleb Guajardo

I would have cried and screamed

I was too young to realize what happened that day, but as I grew older, I knew what 9/11 was. When I stop and think for a moment, I try to feel like the people who got killed ... scared and helpless against what was happening. Then there was another thing I have to think about, the people watching the scene. The colors of red, yellow, orange, and black swelling and filling the air. Also, hearing loud crashes, booms and screaming. When seeing and smelling all the smoke that engulfed the city, how would I have reacted if I was old enough? I know I would've cried and screamed, but what else? I wasn't there to feel as scared as the people who were about to die or the people watching. If I felt that, my life would've been changed forever.

Abbigail Baughman

Still is a great land

To me, 9/11 means the end of a time without war, a time full of scientific breakthroughs, of the invention of new technologies that saved lives, and that made life easier for the sick and the disabled. It meant not only the death of thousands of people, a loss felt by families around the world. It meant the end of one time and the start of a new one. One filled with sorrow and death. One filled with war, I do not know any soldiers fighting overseas, but I do know that they are brave, selfless heroes. The capture of Osama bin Laden didn't change my views at all. 9/11 was an attempt by those heartless terrorists to belittle and weaken a country, the foundation of democracy, that was, and still is a great land.

Christopher Elizondo

Day of fear, heroes, hate, sadness

It was a day of fear, heroes, hate and sadness. 9/11 makes me feel scared that there are people out in the world who want to kill defenseless people. It makes me think about all the people who were scared they would get killed. It makes me think about all the people who stayed in their homes the next day. Also, I think about all the heroes, my father, who went there to help the people who were trapped or injured. The people who were on those airplanes were heroes and they had no right to die. The plane that crashed in a field saved the president and other people. This is a tragic event that will be in history books for the generations to come. The only happy thing about the end is America caught the leader who caused all this to happen.

Carmen Elizondo

It helped us

What 9/11 means to me? It means death. It means useless killing and dying. It means the starting of a war we never asked for, never started, but will finish. I can only hope that it will end soon, that bin Laden's followers will see reason and stop this insane drive to bomb, shoot and kill Americans. I hate to admit it, but in a way, I think it helped us. It made us realize what really matters like family and religion and that we are not immune to attacks here in America. We are now aware of the threats to our country when before 9/11, people wouldn't think twice about it. It may have made us paranoid and scared to death, but at least we can say we now know the cost of liberty, freedom and the rights we are born with in America.

Katie Henderson

I hope we can still keep fighting for our country

9/11 is a very sad time to me. Why would someone do that? They didn't just kill people in the Twin Towers, but they killed the people who were on the planes. I was only 2 when it happened. It is so cheerless to hear what many families had to go through. To read stories about those families makes me so miserable. My uncle used to fight overseas, but I don't think anyone in my family is overseas now. Now that we have killed bin Laden, I don't think that it is going to change anything because we still have his followers to deal with. Even though he is gone, I hope Americans can still keep fighting for our country. I don't think anyone will forget that day.

Nicole Easley

Day of many firsts

Sept. 11 is a day that few will ever forget. It is a day that has given us many firsts. It was the first time that I was really afraid of other countries. It was the first time that I realized how different we all are in the world. It was the first time that I experienced prejudice. It was the first time that I started looking at people differently.

I wonder if the prejudice I experienced toward the terrorists is the same that a 12-year-old experienced in the 1950s toward African-Americans. I don't really know them to not like them, but I know I don't like what the terrorists did. I think to be prejudiced, you'd have to had a bad experience with someone, something or some group. 9/11 is the 2000's new experiences with prejudices.

Sarah Alexander

Lot of freedom

I was only 3 years old when this tragedy happened. I have heard many stories and watched many videos and this makes me think of how wrong this was. We, in America, have a whole lot of freedom that we really don't realize. Life is short, and we need to make the most of it. It was the terrible day for everyone, especially for the families of the people who died. A lot of people were scared to death after that day. Some even thought that a couple of grains of Sweet and Low could be accidently misplaced as Anthrax. On Sept. 11, 2001, most people learned what hero meant. Last year, Osama bin Laden was found and killed. It makes me feel that our country is much safer and stable now. I really appreciate what the U.S. military had done for me. Thank you.

Harley Charbula

They didn't deserve to die

Reading about 9/11 this week reminds me of how important freedom is and how freedom isn't free. Anything can happen anytime and I realized life is short, and you got to make the most of it. When they caught Osama bin Laden, that is when America united and we felt our freedom return. I feel bad for all the people in the Twin Towers and the people on the two planes because they didn't deserve to die. 9/11 is a day the USA will never forget for as long as we live our lives. I appreciate the people who serve overseas right now, protecting our freedom; they risk their lives so we can have peace. When I think of 9/11, it really makes me angry and mad, but we still have freedom. God bless the USA.

Tyler Coleman

I don't understand

I don't know a minute of that event. I was only 2 years old. The only thing I know about 9/11 is what my mom and dad told me. On that day, my mom was scared to death because my brother and I were at daycare in Victoria, and my dad was in Houston while my mom was in Hallettsville. 9/11 makes me mad because I don't understand why someone would do something senseless and cruel to innocent blood. People were killed for no good reason. I don't remember a thing about 9/11; there are kids my age who lost their parents that day who don't remember a thing about what their parents looked like. What does 9/11 mean to me? It means anger and frustration because it's just more senseless violence.

Jackson Howard

United our people

Sept. 11, 2001, was a dark day for the United States of America. Terrorists hijacked planes filled with innocent people and flew them into the World Trade Center in New York City. They also flew another plane into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. This was one of the most tragic days in American history, but good things eventually happened because of it.

One good thing that happened was it united the people of our country. People became more patriotic. People started to help others more and become better neighbors. American flags were being displayed everywhere.

Another good thing was increased security for our country. The government started to think more about terrorism and protecting our country from the people wanting to destroy our freedoms.

Also, firefighters and police officers got more respect. Americans honored the heroes who died trying to save the people in the Twin Towers.

Because of Sept. 11, 2001, our country will never be the same. It was an awful day that will be remembered forever. But, good things can happen, even in tragedy.

Rhett Hanes

Thankful for troops

When 9/11 happened, I was only 2 years and 4 months old. I didn't know a lot about it but I remember my daddy telling me about it. Once I got older, I started to understand how 9/11 changed my life. If it had never happened, I would have never had the chance to become a part of a wonderful event called Warriors Weekend. It also changed America. People started supporting and praying for our troops, and America's houses started flying American flags. When we killed Osama bin Laden, my country and I were so happy. There were people waving the American flag and celebrating in the streets. My dad's lifelong friend is going back to war in Afghanistan on his second tour in December. Since 9/11, my family and I remember and are thankful of our troops every night in our prayers.

Reina Balboa

Flags were flying

I was only 3 years old when the events of 9/11 occurred. My memories of this day are from photographs and news reports. What I best remember is how the country came together and displayed our patriotism. There were flags flying on every street corner and new flags going up in neighborhoods each day. People were proud to be Americans because they came together to defend our country against terrorism. What 9/11 means to me is a combination of fear and pride. The fear is that something like that could happen again in our country. The pride is because I know that the USA will continue to fight terrorists and for our freedom around the world. 9/11 proved that our country can overcome anything when the citizens come together to make things happen.

Hannah Kristynik

Confusion and sadness

I was only 3 years old when 9/11 happened. I do not remember much about the actual day the attacks occurred, but after doing some research and reflection about 9/11, I feel like it was a time of confusion and sadness. The confusion occurred when people did not know what had happened or why this had happened. They were also confused why someone would actually do such a tragic thing to so many innocent people. There was so much sadness because so many families were affected by the loss of so many people, and to this day, they are still greatly missed by their loved ones. I think about 9/11 often and pray that the families who lost loved ones can find peace and that our country could one day be healed from such a loss. God bless America.

Austin Kainer



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