In a city of light, two narrow white beams pierce the night sky above the southern skyline – just as thirteen years ago, two columns of black smoke darkened the most beautiful blue sky I have ever seen.

There is no other day in my life that I remember so vividly as September 11th, 2001. Not just images, but videos play over in my mind. It was my second week of high school when the world as I knew it changed.

In the weeks that followed, I saw things that I had never seen before. My father took me to the World Trade Center, where a pile of dirt and rubble had replaced the iconic towers that had always marked our trips to New York. I saw grief, anger, and confusion. But I saw something else as well.

I saw a truly united nation. As my friends and I held a car wash to help raise money for the United Way, I proudly waved an American flag along Lancaster Avenue in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. The cars that passed rolled down their windows and cheered, and honked in triumph, in mourning, and in solidarity.

There were no Democrats. There were no Republicans. There were only Americans – and I was, and remain, so proud to be one of them.