I know this isn’t a topic we see a lot of these days, but it is still so important that we never forget. Our entire country was affected by the events of September 11, 2001, some more than others.

My older sister Amanda attended school at SUNY Maritime College in NYC during those tragic events. She has never really opened up about her experience at that time and as a result, it has weighed heavy on her soul. She reached out to me and said she was ready to talk.

So I sat down with my sister and she opened up on this topic in a way she never has before.

This is her story.

The morning of September 11th started normal with morning formation and the raising of the flag, then off to class. A normal morning, the same as it was for so many others.

My first real memory was in meteorology class, I don’t remember what we were working on I just remember we kept hearing sirens and all I could think was someone had jumped off the Throgs Neck bridge which was something that unfortunately happened in the recent past. I just remember the constant sound of sirens.

I remember the announcement that classes were canceled and being told to head back to our dorms. While walking back to the dorm along the football field and just across the way I had a clear view of Manhattan and all I could see was a sky full of smoke.

When I made it to my room I had a voicemail from my mom, The worried tone in her voice caused me concern so I tried to call her back but the phone wouldn’t go through.

I grabbed my pink razor phone and headed back towards the football field I was able to reach her long enough for her to hear me say “I’m okay, it’s ok”. Then the phones go out.

I go back to the dorm and we turn the TVs on trying to figure out what is going on. As it sank in and we watched the 1st tower fall live on TV, the overwhelming fear set in, and the lockdown began.

No one in or out, absolutely NO UNIFORMS for anyone. They worked to make the campus look as little military-related as they could, as they waited for more information to come.

After watching the 1st tower fall, I found myself among a large group of people standing on the football field.

As I frantically tried to call my mom, I got no signal. Standing under a tree in the corner of the field trying to make my way to the middle trying to get a signal, all I remember feeling is pure panic.

In the midst of this, I looked across the way as the second tower began to crumble with it my heart fell to the floor.

My first thought “Oh my fucking god”. The smoke was heavier than you could imagine.

The smell that filled the air was a very distinct smell, but like nothing you have ever smelt before. It was so thick in the air and it seemed to linger for days not once lessening in strength.

The smell of death; it still lingers in the back of my mind. I don’t think it is something that will ever go away.

After this is all kind of a blur, one thing bleeding into the next. I remember the Throgs Neck EMTs going to ground zero but I can’t recall when. I remember not going with them out of fear, anger, and all emotions, something I have so much regret for.

I remember everyone walking around in a sort of daze; just going through the motions trying to process and move on, but the actual events of the days that followed are an unsorted mess.

My next real memory is the fourth of July back home in Buffalo with my family at our traditional celebration and as tradition goes the song Proud to be an American by Lee Greenwood filled the air around me.

With the first few notes, 10 months of fear, panic, anger, and every other emotion came pouring out of me as my mother just held me.

“I will never forget seeing what hate can destroy… I will never forget seeing what love can heal…”

Steve Maraboli