September 11, 2001: I was a junior in college, walking to my first education class of the day. Somewhere between 8-9 a.m. A seemingly ordinary Tuesday. A seemingly ordinary steamy, mid-September walk with a group of friends. A seemingly ordinary everything.

Until we passed another group of friends, returning to their dorms instead of heading to class as well.

 “Have you heard the news?” they asked.

“What news?”

Their words left me, and all of us, completely breathless.

Unsure of what to do, we continued to class.

We sat in awe of the information leaving our teacher’s lips.

We were quiet. We were scared. We were unsure of anything.

We were told class was canceled for the day and to return to our housing.

I will never in my life forget the moments of that sorrowful day.

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I will never in my life forget the tearful call home to my parents. Two-and-a-half hours away. On a sunlit stairwell. In my college housing. 

I will never in my life forget the images.

The smoke.

The black and white.

The fear.

The screams and tears.

The blood.

So much blood.

The ashes.

So many ashes.

And above all, the heroes.

So many incredible heroes.

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Almost two decades have passed now. But the day will remain forever embedded deep within the hearts, minds, and souls of those who witnessed the events even as the memories of the day seem to fade a bit more each year.

But, we will remember.

We will recognize.

We will not forget.

And, we will honor.

The selfless, beautiful heroes, who rose from ashes. 

Our children have learned some of the details of the day, but they will never know it in the same way those who lived through it know it. And as parents and teachers, it is now more important than ever before to teach our generations to come the historical importance of what occurred that heartbreaking, yet courage-filled day. As well as the bravery, courage, community, and togetherness as a nation that emerged from the events. And most importantly of all, to recognize the true definition of a hero. All for generations to come.

This year has brought forth so many unsung heroes in such a bittersweet way as did the heartbreaking day now known as 9-11.

This year has provided such unexpected opportunities to honor those quiet, day-to-day, unsung heroes, in some incredibly touching and special ways. To teach our youth that a hero can be as simple as someone who delivers baby diapers to your front porch in the midst of a pandemic. A hero is the person they see each week, stocking the grocery shelves, but now, in the midst of the greatest uncertainty in life, to keep a community fed. Heroes include our teachers. Our healthcare workers. Our firefighters. Our police officers. Our postal workers.

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A hero can be tiny. A hero can be big. A hero can be young. A hero can be old.

A seemingly ordinary someone who makes a very extraordinary choice. Anyone who sacrifices anything, and sometimes everything, for another of God’s children, running toward the danger when the normal human response is to run far away. 

Selfless.

Noble.

Chivalrous.

Sacrificial.

Although slowly fading, the events of this day 19 years ago will never be forgotten. And this 9-11, we will pause. We will reflect with our children. And they will learn a little bit more.

And most importantly of all, we will pray.

Over our country. 

Over lives lost.

Over lives saved.

Over everyday heroes.

Over our blessings.

Over the beauty brought forth from the ashes.

And over hope.

The hope our children carry for our future.

RELATED: Our Children Are Heroes Too

It’s our responsibility to help our children learn. The promise they carry. The potential that grows deep within each of them. Because, as young as they might be, our children are our future heroes. Our hope and promise for tomorrow, and for many, many years to come.

They might not fully understand.

But they will learn.

What we take the time to teach them.

And today is a perfect day to begin teaching.

Liz Spenner

Liz is a former elementary teacher and now a stay-at-home mama to six little ones. She writes as an inspiration to other women, and most especially mothers on her blog, at www.simplycomplexmom.com. Liz loves spending with her family, outside as often as possible, as well as sneaking a few moments to herself with a run, dark chocolate and writing, with her faith as her greatest motivation.