I had just begun my junior year in high school when America’s aura of invincibility ended for my generation on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

Even back then, I was an avid follower of politics and world events — one of the few kids to watch the nightly news and read Drudge. But 9/11 heightened my interest in world affairs like no other event could.

For some in my generation, it was, in many ways, a tragedy that broke our selfish shells and prompted more concern for the world beyond our own shallow lives. For the first time, we realized there was more to life than popularity and prestige, cars and cash, music, and MTV. We were reminded of the frailty of human life and our own mortality. We took spiritual matters and God more seriously — if only for a time — and looked beyond ourselves to something higher and nobler.

The aftermath of 9/11 was also one of the few periods in recent history where everything that divides us as Americans was put aside and there was a powerful sense of unity and purpose. Young people only now entering into the world of politics and policy have no memory of such a time — and that is a sad reality for the future of our country.

Time — 21 years now — has washed much of that away, but some of us still remember the lessons learned.

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” — Psalm 90:12.

This personal account originally published on Carolina Journal on the twentieth anniversary of the terror attacks on the United States, September 11, 2001.