I remember exactly where I was on September 11, 2001. I was at school. That morning we had a special breakfast for parents and teachers. I remember sitting at the table with my dad. A friend of his walked up to him and said, “They just flew a plane into the World Trade Center”. That had come from Buck Rogers, a long time friend of my dad’s and my brother’s soccer coach. It was 2001, cell phones were much simpler, but Buck got news reports on his phone. We were all shocked. I got a little tense, but kept eating. Then everyone around starting chatting about it. Mothers were worried, teachers were crying.
Some began thinking about the possibility of them attacking Charleston. I remember one teacher saying that Charleston was a pretty important Air base and it would be possible that they might attack us. I didn’t know what to think. People were frantic. We went back into math class and Mrs. Beers turned on the TV. We watched for a few minutes. We tried to go on with the day but we just couldn’t. I still remember the looks on teachers’ faces. Absolute despotism. I remember my social studies teacher remained worried throughout the entire day. She had this bewildered, scared look on her face. We were all so sad. But later, she led a movement out of the ashes.

The next thing I remember that involved 9/11 was the planning of a trip to New York. It was like madness, but in a good way. All of a sudden parents, teachers, and students were wanting to go to New York and do something for the families of the firemen who gave their lives. Our brave social studies teacher, found a firehouse who lost 8 men in the attacks, Ladder Co 118. We started raising money, putting on coat drives. Instead of trick or treating on Halloween, we went around asking for canned goods and clothes to take to the families. We found a tour bus company that donated buses to take us up there. We found hotels that gave us free rooms to stay in along the way. It was amazing. People were working together to do something good, and we had received blessing all along the way.

On the drive up, my best friend AC got interviewed by the local news station who went with us. Later on the trip, the folks from Channel One News (a student oriented news service) met up with us. I remember sitting by Janet Choi, one of the newscasters. She was interviewing us and asking us questions. It seemed that the world was amazed that 14 year old middle schoolers would want to go help families in New York.

I remember being in New York. It was such a quick trip. I think we were only in the city for one night before we went back. We took food, clothes, and toys to the families of 8 men who gave their lives on that day. Later that night we had a barbecue at Ladder 118. There were lots of people there. I got to slide down the fire pole. That was fun. As we were all leaving, my friend AC, myself, and some others were carrying food to a woman’s car. Her husband was one of the eight. I remember placing the bags down in the car and as soon as I looked up she bombarded me with a hug. She was sobbing, and could only say ‘Thank you’. That was worth the whole trip.

They called us “Santas from the South” and as I recall, they named that day after us in the city. I don’t know if everyone there still remembers us and the things we did, but I know that we made a difference in the lives of a few. That was well worth it.

A few years later, I would go on to learn about servant leadership in IMPACT 360’s nine month program, something God had already placed in my heart, using that trip to New York to warm my heart to His guidance.