[Editor's note: This was originally published in 2011 on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.]
Ten years ago, one of my best friends in the world graduated from college, and went to work in New York. His office was in the South Tower of what used to be the World Trade Center. September 2001 was his second month on the job, and he had finally been able to afford to move his pregnant wife from Louisiana up to New York to live with him.
On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, I was at his brother's house, along with his sister-in-law, his niece, and his mother. No one knew if Ben was okay. His wife was though; she had gone to Philadelphia that day.
For two chaotic and confusing days, we waited. We waited to hear from Ben.
On September 12th, there was a call for any available firemen, EMTs, paramedics, etc, to please come to New York and help. Ben's brother, Justin, was a fireman, but his family begged him not to go. At least wait a few more days, to make sure there won't be any more attacks, his mother begged.
I'll never forget how quickly my body and brain went numb, and my heart filled up with more emotion than could be processed, when he stated very calmly: I have to go find my little brother. The next morning, I drove him to the Air Force base, and he joined several dozen other local emergency personnel that were all flying to New York. That was September 13th.
On September 15th, Ben and Justin's mother got a phone call from someone telling her that Justin had been killed when the roof of a building he had been working in collapsed on top of him. On September 16th, Ben's body was found in some rubble.
There were, of course, many other details along the way, but the amended version suffices for the purpose of this article.
Like so many others, I lost people that were very close to me that day; two people that were just like family. One, a rookie day trader, making an exciting new life for his wife and future child. The other, a selfless older brother.
It is always hard to digest the memories of September 11, 2001. But it is very easy to recognize and show gratitude for those who most deserve it.
To all of you who stand on posts, who show up when the bell rings, who provide a blanket of protection, who selflessly serve the citizens of this country, who go anywhere you are needed, who put yourselves in dangerous situations... Thank you. Thank you for doing things that you don't have to do. Thank you for being there for our communities and our country. You are what defines the culture of the United States, and what makes me so proud, and honored, to be an American.