“Look outside the window, and tell me what you see,” said Mr. P. to his history class.

We all ran to the window, and saw a huge cloud of smoke.

“Is there a house burning nearby?” I asked myself.

“Remember what used to be there?” Mr. P. asked us.

Nobody knew.

“The Twin Towers,” he said to the class.

We all stood there, and loudly accused him of lying to us. He wasn’t joking.

There’s a lot to be said for a moment like that. The realization that your innocence has left you, drifting in the wind like that giant cloud of smoke. For a while, I felt exactly like that. It was difficult to regain a sense of comfort when everything you knew was crashing down around you, literally and figuratively. I can still remember watching 7 World Trade Center fall on TV while my mother recounted walking across the 59th street Bridge to get back into Queens. It’s not the way you’d expect a bright sunny day to end.

When the dust began to settle, there was one thing that I kept on seeing. People helping each other. New Yorkers are perceived to be tough cookies, and they do what they have to do to get by. I didn’t see any of that. I saw people coming together. My mother recounted stories of commercial trucks letting people in the back in an attempt to get home. People went looking for their friends and loved ones. No one, if they could help it, was to be left behind.

While I learned many lessons from the tragedies of 9/11, I will always keep one lesson dear to my heart. If you can help someone, do it. It doesn’t matter how little or big that action may seem. I have made a vow to myself, that if I can help someone, I will.

For all the public service workers, the friends, the neighbors, and the ones who were passing through and stopped to help, I thank you. You have helped show the world, what humanity is all about.

Ebonye Gussine is a graduate student in the Master of Science in Business Management & Leadership Program at the CUNY School of Professional Studies.  She loves writing, reading, and is an avid fan of John Steinbeck’s works. In her spare time she sings off-key and travels to new places.