People thrive off what makes them happy, their passion. In life, one cannot understand happiness until they realize their need to fulfill their passions. My most gratifying passion is traveling. My entire life, I’ve been exposed to numerous landmarks across the nation. Even when I was too young to understand the importance of September 11, I was able to visit the aftermath of an event that changed America forever. As I grow I find I am beginning to perceive the world in a new light and understand concepts that once meant nothing to me.
My first trip to New York was in 2002. I was ten years old and although I thought I understood the complexity of the Twin Towers and their plunder to the ground, in reality, I had no idea what the impact was on the people inside the buildings, the families of loved ones pronounced dead or who could not be found, the firefighters who put their lives on the line in dedication to their country, the nation, and the entire world. Visiting Ground Zero, although meaning little to me, had an effect on my mother I hadn’t expected. As she stood on the street corner, tears streaming from her eyes, I looked across the distance and saw only rubble and debris. No fence blocked the outside world from this tragedy. No barrier distracted onlookers from the main attraction. No obstruction created an illusion from the disaster for the public. There only remained remnants of two skyscrapers mixed with dirt and concrete to stare at, and for some reason, people were crying, burying their heads in their hands, and all I could think about was the remainder of my vacation. My world was limited only to what I could imagine myself experiencing, and I could not picture myself in any other position then in the life I had at that moment.
This past summer, my family and I traveled back to New York. Each time I journey to New York I realize something new about the city that continues to entice my interest. Like every other time we‘re in New York, my mother insisted we visit Ground Zero. I, thinking how I’ve already experienced Ground Zero, thought it would be pointless to return. I would realize soon I couldn’t have been more wrong. My memory from my first encounter of Ground Zero stuck in my mind as I exited the subway at 34th Street. However, my perception of what I thought was absolute shattered when I stepped onto the street. No longer was that city block open, viewable to the public. No longer could a person step foot on that ground, now a reminder of patriotism and freedom. Now there stood a fence, blocking out the world. Sheltered behind disguise, construction carried on, building another monument to represent that freedom. However, I now was not thinking about the rest of my vacation agenda. Instead, I became that person who stood before a powerful symbol, head between my hands, teary eyed, questioning why. Why take the lives of innocent people? For one of the first times in my life I felt full appreciation for the American flag and the meaning of Liberty. For once in my sixteen years of life I was able to truly give thanks to those who put their lives in place of mine. As I stood there, realizing how lucky I was to have the opportunity to be alive, gazing at this historical landscape, I found myself, in that moment, more mature and thankful than I had ever been in my entire life.
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