Saturday will mark 20 years—two decades that have gone by since the clear September sky over Manhattan was suddenly stained with ominous black smoke that signaled one of the darkest days in American history.

On Sept. 11, 2001, the United States was attacked on its own soil in what was considered to be the deadliest terrorist attack ever documented. Our nation was left in a state of shock. It was a time of fear and uncertainty, but it was also a time marked for remembering when ordinary people would stand up to be heroes. 

It was a time when brave men and women from all walks of life put themselves in harm’s way to help their fellow countrymen in their hour of need. A time when many who witnessed the attacks remember a nation of people coming together despite social or political differences. 

The attacks themselves showcased the very worst aspects of humanity, but in the aftermath, one might say it also showcased some of the very best. Perhaps we can remember the events of that day not by the terrible pain it caused our nation or for the void it left in so many families across the country. Perhaps we can remember the hope inspired by the noble actions of the first responders and the average citizens who worked tirelessly for days to rescue survivors from the rubble.

On this day, we remember those who continue to suffer from their loss, those police officers and firefighters who still suffer injury from performing their duties so heroically that day. We also remember the sense of unity it brought to many of us from one U.S. coast to the other.

The tragic events of that day should be remembered for numerous reasons, but it should also serve as a reminder that no matter who we are or what our circumstances, the smallest act of kindness can go a long way in comforting or aiding the suffering. We all have the capacity to stand up and be a hero just like so many brave men and women did that day.

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