Our generation’s Pearl Harbor

September 11 is my generation’s date which will live in infamy. I, like many, will never forget where I was and what I was doing when the first and second planes hit the towers. For me, it was my senior year of high school and I was applying for colleges. I always wanted to serve in the Military, especially since my family has a proud history of service to this country. Virginia Military Institute, Air Force Academy and Virginia Tech were just a few of the schools I submitted to.

However, that bright and sunny morning forever changed my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined. A student came running into my psychology class shouting that a plane just hit the World Trade Center. The rest of the school day was spent watching news coverage of the events as they unfolded. I was sitting in history class when the second plane slammed into the second tower, and I remember hearing the air go out of everyone as we watched in horror as people started jumping from the windows of the World Trade Center to escape the flames.

Rumors were flying. We heard the White House had been hit and that the president had disappeared somewhere in Air Force One. There was also an eerie silence in the air as a result of all aircrafts being grounded in the United States: the first time since “Operation Skyshield” in the 1960s. Images continued to flood in all day about the attack on the Pentagon and the stories about the heroic actions of those on Flight 93. I have never seen my country so united and I don’t believe I ever will again. There were American flags flying on all the houses in my neighborhood, flag stickers appeared on cars over the next few days and it was all anyone was talking about.

Those of us who can remember the days surrounding Sept. 11, 2001 won’t forget seeing our congressman sing God Bless America around the steps of the capital and the National Anthem playing at Buckingham Palace, in the streets of Paris and at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate. To me this was my generation’s Pearl Harbor, except it was an attack on civilians this time.

On Sept. 12, 2001 I called my Marine Recruiter and asked when I could enlist. Before I knew it, I was scheduled to ship to boot camp at Parris Island the week after I graduated. Joining the military is no easy task; it forces you to grow up overnight. When I left we were already engaged in combat operations in Afghanistan, and when I arrived at my military school I remember watching the invasion of Iraq, cheering the Marines involved with cries of “get some,” “hurrah” and others not appropriate for print.

After witnessing the violent acts of Sept. 11, 2001, and having served my country here and in Iraq, I have such a great love for this nation and its people. Even to this day I would gladly give my life to protect her. I want all of you to know, to understand that I didn’t join out of some desire to go to war or for glory and adventure. I joined because my country needed me and I answered its calling, just like my grandfather did in 1940 when Nazi Germany threatened to set the world on fire. I challenge all of you today to do something for your community, big or small.

To quote what President Bush said in the days following the attacks, “In all that lies before us, may God grant us wisdom, and may He watch over the United States of America.”

Darin Hinman is the current Station Manager of KCSU 90.5 and a former active duty Marine. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com