By Lisa Whaley

I will never forget where I was on Sept. 11, 2001.

My children were small. Ginny had just started kindergarten that year. I had dropped 1-year-old Mary off at her grandmother’s so I could pick up a little extra work with some clerking duties at the Johnson City Press.

I was sitting in what was once referred to as the sports department to do my work. Most of the sportswriters had yet to come in and all was quiet.

On the wall above the desks was a television that ran all day so we could stay up to date on national news. I would type, and glance up, then type and glance up again. I don’t remember if I saw the moment of the first plane flying into the Twin Towers. I remember seeing the replay and sharing the nation’s belief that something had happened to the pilot or plane to cause this horrible accident.

Then I saw the second plane fly into the building.

In that split second, everything changed. In that second, not only were steel and glass shattered, but so too was the belief that United States soil was somehow immune to world conflict.

True, we had weathered Pearl Harbor, but that had been decades and oceans away from our mainland. We had fought in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam, but no one had ever dropped a bomb on New York or Washington, D.C.

As I drove back home later that afternoon, I wondered if war had finally come to America.

Yet as I look back, I can see that from that dark moment, and from those ashes, there arose such a tribute to freedom that, for years to come, we all stood a little taller as Americans.

In those moments, race, religion and political affiliation truly ceased to matter. We were joined together in something bigger than ourselves.

Nowhere was that sentiment more clearly illustrated than at the sites of those terrorist-implemented atrocities — the Twin Towers in New York, the Pentagon Building in Washington and that lone field in rural Pennsylvania.

At each location, brave men and women rose up — to provide comfort, save lives and avert disaster. They did it quickly. They did it selflessly. They did it for their brothers, sisters, neighbors, friends and even strangers.

They showed each of us who we want to be when we say “I am an American.” They showed us what we, as Americans, do best when we are in real danger. We unite.

Today, The Erwin Record has the privilege of publishing on the anniversary of 9-11 and in doing so would like to dedicate this to all first responders who, like those brave souls on 9-11, continue protect the lives of those around them.

And we thank them for reminding us, again and again, what it means to be a true American — different yes, but united always.

May we never, ever forget the sacrifices that continue to teach us this lesson.