Today is a day of remembrance and day of service – here in the United States. Yet what we’re remembering has had consequences far and wide, around the globe, throughout every country and in the hearts of so many men, women and children.

So I look back on that tragic day – 14 years ago. I don’t remember the exact moment. I don’t remember seeing the buildings fall. I do know I was in government class, senior year of high school. I do know we rolled a television into the room and we watched this horrific tragedy unfold before our eyes. I have no conscious memory of watching it all happen. That’s not how my memory works.

What I remember is the absolute shock and confusion on the faces of my classmates and my teachers. The tears, the fear and the panic that was nearly tangible in the halls of my school and on the streets of every town across America. I remember sitting in my next class, Anatomy, where we supposed to have a test. Instead we turned on the radio and we listened to the aftermath. Students with family in the DC area desperately reached out to anyone and everyone trying to figure out if their family was still intact. Many held hands, others prayed, tears flowed freely from male and female alike, student and teacher.

Each person I encountered that day was wrapped in a fog. Each person was trying to comprehend tragedy on a massive scale. Now we look back and say how proud we are of our Nation and how it came together. That’s not how I remember that day, or even the days that followed. We panicked. We allowed our fear to envelop our hearts and we spewed rage at how this horrible thing could happen to us.

I am in no way belittling or saying that we did not come together. We did, there were acts of kindness throughout the entire thing, but for me – each single act of kindness was overwhelmed by our broken hearts. It’s only natural when your country’s heart is broken that you react strongly, forcefully and loudly – how else do you prove that your heart may be broken, but you still stand strong? People do it everyday, they lift their heads up and keep moving forward in the face of tragedy and heartache. Our country reacted the same way.

So today on this day of remembrance and of national service, lift your heads high. Help that stranger cross the street, smile at the exhausted stranger at the bus stop. Keep your faith strong – be it in a higher power, your country, the human race. Keep kindness in your heart and let that be your guide. Remember those who have perished but don’t allow the grief of their passing, the anger at how they died, to infect your words and more importantly your actions. Live strong, live brightly, live kindly. Live in love.