This past week, the nation recognized the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
That day, when thousands were killed in a domestic attack by a relative few people, the nation was changed forever. It was a defining moment in U.S. and world history, and certainly a moment which changed those of us alive to witness it.
We were all affected in one way or another that day, whether we were there to witness and experience those moments firsthand, lost someone as a result of the attacks, or simply watched as the national consciousness shifted.
It's a different world we live in than the one we woke up to that morning 11 years ago.
Many of us lived our lives thinking there would never be such an attack on U.S. soil, much like, I'm sure, many felt the same way prior to Pearl Harbor.
Now, we know it's possible and could happen at any moment. It can happen just about anywhere, putting us in a constant state of vigilance whether we like it or not.
We were reminded just how different today's world can be as we went to sleep that night only to see attacks on our embassies and consulates in Egypt and Libya.
Similar attacks have been taking place throughout the week across Africa and the Middle East, and, unfortunately, many have died as a result.
It is a different world than what we had 11 years ago. We must always be mindful of the possibilities of this world. We must remember the dangers out there, but at the same time we can't let them lead how we live.
I've been fortunate to visit New York City on a few occasions now.
The first time, I was around 15 or 16, and my family stopped while on our way up to the New England area. We boarded the Liberty Ferry for a visit to see the Statue of Liberty.
There's a photo at home of my family standing on Liberty Island, the skyline of lower Manhattan in the background and the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center soaring high above all else.
I thought about that photo in the days following the attack 11 years ago, knowing I would never get the chance to see those buildings in person again.
I thought about it again during my most recent trip to the Big Apple in May.
As one flies over Manhattan, they can look down at the buildings and the hustle and bustle that is New York City. It was easy to pick out where the buildings stood.
Later that day, I saw it up close as my mom, sister and I made it to ground zero as part of a tour package which took us to various sites around the island.
It's both beautiful and heartwrenching at the same time. It's amazing to see those massive waterfall-style fountains and all the trees and landscaping, while also seeing the names of all those who died at the site that day.
There's a tree, blocked off from the public. It is the only one that survived that day. It is still growing, and with the proper care I'm sure will live for years to come.
So, while I know there are dangers in this world, and things will never be the same, that tree is something I took away from that particular visit.
It needs care and assistance just like any living thing, but it survived and is growing.
It made it through one of the most brutal attacks in modern days, and it stands there as a witness to the continued American spirit.
It was there for the old World Trade Center, and now it is there to see the construction of the new World Trade Center skyscrapers as they tower overhead.
The site of those new buildings as they are being constructed also served as a bit of inspiration, as did the people of New York.
They lived through these attacks. They live in the shadow of ground zero, and yet, by all appearances at least, they continue to live their lives as normally as they did before.
The world is different, but we can't let that stop us from living.
There are sure to be future attacks that affect our nation, whether they be here or at another point in the world.
There are going to be those moments that change our lives forever.
However, no matter how different things get, the important thing is to find ways to move forward and continue to work to making things better for the future.
(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)