It's been 12 years since the terrorist attack that took down the World Trade Center towers, killing more than 2,000 people working, visiting or trying to rescue others on Sept. 11, 2001.
For my generation, that is the day we will always remember, like previous generations remember where and what they were doing when news broke of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
In September of 2011, I was a student at SUNY Maritime College in Throgs Neck, N.Y. (If you need a reference point, I had to walk under a portion of the Throgs Neck Bridge to get to classes...)
I can still remember exactly where I was when news began to break — sitting in a classroom trying to wrap my brain around a class lecture. When class dismissed, we heard talk of a plane having crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. Initially, we all thought it was just a small plane, something like a Cessna.
But when we heard it was something bigger, we went out onto the athletic fields to peer across the water at the smoking tower. No one cared about any classes after that as we tuned in to news stations and alternated between looking at the NYC skyline and looking at the broadcasts.
We did this until there were no towers to look at any longer, just massive plumes of dust and smoke. We might have seen the second tower fall, but it was hard to tell what we were seeing from that distance...but it doesn't matter, really, the images were horrific enough without the details.
And the horror didn't stop there. The college is situated adjacent to a U.S. Marine Reserve base and we heard the chatter coming from over there — there had also been an attack on the Pentagon.
Later that evening, we gathered for a meeting in the mess hall. Many of us were shaken when military jets flew overhead, causing the building to shudder a little. A sense of disbelief remained through the evening and into the next morning, but there was no denying the tragedy when we awoke to find what we assumed was ash on our vehicles and campus.
After the attacks, flags began to pop up all over the place. On the drive home from school that week, I would see them on vehicles when previously I had never seen more than a bumper sticker. I wish that had continued, but after a while that fervor died down. Today, I see the lonely bumper sticker, but not much else.
Despite the lack of outward remembrance, I think it's safe to say that most Americans will never forget that day in September, 12 years ago. I know I never will.