Every year, around mid-August, I think three things, usually in this order:

I can’t believe the summer is almost over. I still need to get X, Y, Z so the kids will be ready for back-to-school.

I can’t believe it’s been almost X years since Katrina—so sad how rebuilding has gone so slowly.

I can’t believe next month it will be X years since 9/11. It doesn’t feel like that long ago. I still remember that day so clearly.

It’s this last thought in particular that has me particularly reflective this year. Anniversaries with fives and zeroes at the end tend to do that to people, I’ve found. My life has changed so much in the 10 years since 9/11, but the memories I have and the lessons I learned from that day are with me still, and will be for every anniversary that follows—whether it has a five and/or zero or not.

It’s strange, but some of my clearest memories of that day are the smallest ones. For example, I’ll always remember it was a Tuesday. Of all the dates I have stored in my head, the only ones that have days of the week attached to them are my wedding date (a Friday), the birthdays of my two children (a Tuesday and a Friday) and 9/11. I also remember what a beautiful morning it was: the sky was so blue and clear, and the sun was shining brightly. There was the slightest chill in the air, a reminder that fall was coming and I may want to take my sweaters out of storage sooner than I’d planned.

Some of the lessons I learned are ones that we all took from that day: Cherish your loved ones, support our troops unconditionally, find unity in adversity. I also learned to always have a plan … and a backup plan. At 23, it was easy enough for me to get home from my suburban office job to perceived safety on 9/11. I just got in my car and drove the 15 minutes to my mother’s house. Today, working close to Washington, D.C., with a husband and two little ones and home more than an hour away, getting everyone together and safe is a much larger undertaking. When I started commuting downtown, I always had in my mind, “What do we do if …?” "What do we do if I couldn't ...?" — thoughts that wouldn’t have immediately occurred to me if not for 9/11.

As our nation prepares to mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, what are your most lasting memories and lessons learned from that day? I invite you to share them in the comments.

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