How did September 11 change you?
That's the question Yahoo! is asking its contributors and readers as we approach 10 years since the attacks on America.
In the past month, we've published hundreds of your stories: New Yorkers recounted fleeing the twin ftowers that morning. U.S. soldiers -- just schoolchildren 10 years ago -- explained how they saw 9/11 as a extraordinary chance to serve their nation. Grieving families told us about their loved ones who died on September 11, lost but not forgotten.
We've heard from Americans of all backgrounds. The attacks were a singularly democratizing experience; whether they were immediately and tangibly impacted that day or not, Americans everywhere could not escape the effects then or find themselves unchanged today.
Below are a few stories from readers that we've highlighted. To share yours, sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network.
* Glenn Winuk, a 20-year volunteer firefighter and lawyer who worked a block from ground zero, evacuated his colleagues and then rushed into the blazing south tower to save lives. He was 40 when he died on Sept. 11; his remains were discovered the next spring, his medic bag still by his side.
His brother, Jay, shared Glenn's story: "A true American hero had perished, along with a horrifying number of others. Glenn was a remarkable person, as giving a man as I have ever known. He always went out of his way for people, and not just as an attorney and firefighter. Taking care of others and doing good deeds just came naturally to him. It gave him great satisfaction. As brothers, we were very close. We attended the same college, shared many of the same friends and spent many happy times together. Losing Glenn, especially in this way, hurts every day."
To honor Glenn and 9/11's victims, Jay helped found MyGoodDeed, a nonprofit that encourages people to remember the victims with acts of kindness on every Sept. 11 anniversary. His lobbying of Congress resulted in September 11 becoming a National Day of Service and Remembrance. Read more.
* Dan Smock enlisted in the U.S. Army a few months before 9/11. He views the attacks as a fulcrum point on which his -- and others' -- futures were altered. Were it not for 9/11, he writes, three of his fellow soldiers might still be alive.
"I'd met Jim the year before I enlisted -- after multiple tours, he was killed by an IED in eastern Afghanistan," Smock writes. "He was there because he'd turned down a headquarters assignment so he could be with his team. Greg was my platoon sergeant. He died in Baghdad during a mortar attack while guiding others into a bunker. Eric led his squad into a house in Iraq that, unknown to them, was wired to explode, killing him and several others that day. I'm different today because of their sacrifice and that of others I never knew.
"My today is different because of that day -- worse, and better, too. Worse because we lost them, better because I knew them at all." Read more.
* Amber C. Lee, a Muslim, has necessarily developed a thick skin in the last decade: "One thing you can't do is hide your religion if you're a Muslim woman in a post-9/11 country."
"I'm always ready for that rude comment, cold stare, or when someone jumps, jolted when they first see that there's a Muslim in the same store as them. It's as if they're waiting for me to start screaming like a banshee and pull out some kind of weapon from my purple leather purse."
Still, she says she's appreciative for the dialog it's created: "9/11 has opened an opportunity for Americans to ask questions about Islam, and for that, I'm grateful. I'm proud to represent my Muslim faith in such a visible way after so many Americans have pinpointed Islam as the enemy after 9/11.
"This is my America, too." Read more.
* Lila Nordstrom, on the night of Sept. 10, 2001, was more concerned about her shoes than she was her safety. The high-school senior, who attended Stuyvesant High School 10 years ago, was prepping for school photos the next day. The pictures weren't taken, of course.
"My high school, just three blocks from the World Trade Center, was evacuated," she writes. "That day, instead of showing off my new shoes, I walked 10 miles in them."
The devastating environmental effects that followed 9/11 transformed Nordstrom's life: "I began to advocate for my fellow students, founding an organization called StuyHealth in 2006, right after James Zadroga, an NYPD responder, died of 9/11-related respiratory disease, the first of a long line to do so. StuyHealth focuses primarily on securing health monitoring and treatment for 9/11 survivors, specifically student 9/11 victims." Read more.
Here are more excerpts from readers' stories.
9/11's lingering effects separate newlyweds: "Not long after the September 11 attacks, one of my best friends joined the U.S. Army. He shipped off to boot camp and began training to go overseas with the first Stryker brigade to be deployed. Three years later, that friend would become my husband. We enjoyed five months of blissful marriage before he left for Iraq. He never would have had a reason to go, were it not for 9/11. Thankfully, he came home, but he was never the same. We were never the same. Because of September 11, 2001, I am a different person. I am a cynic. I have anxiety. I have a husband who acts as if every day is his last, but not in the good way that they try to pawn off in Hallmark cards." -- Shelly Barclay
Former New Yorker still lost, still healing after 10 years: "I remember my friends who died, but I also remember the ones who survived: Dan, who had quit his WTC job a few weeks earlier, was having a bagel with a former co-worker in the park when the plane hit. Everyone at the company's WTC office that day was lost except that one co-worker and another at a meeting uptown. Janet was late for a tech conference at the WTC. On probation, she would have been fired from her job at a financial paper had her boss known she was late; no one from the conference survived. Kevin, my roommate, spent the day walking out of the rubble and across the bridge. Craig, an NYPD officer, who to this day still suffers from health problems from his work on the pile." -- Kristie Massion
Marine mom's family sacrifices to make America stronger: "My family sacrificed, too. I have three children who all joined the Marine Corps after 9/11. Two left to Iraq and one to Afghanistan to defend our country. My sons were in aircraft support -- one in logistics and the other in aircraft hydraulics repair. My daughter was in Iraq and was responsible for many of the more dangerous roles, such as checking Muslim women for bombs on their bodies, guarding benzene and other dangerous chemicals, being shot at by the enemy, running for cover, and having to pull her M-16 on the enemy more than once." -- Kathryn Perez
Starting an American life on Sept. 11: "My life in America started on September. 11, 2001. I was 17 and living in Pakistan. I got my immigrant visa two hours before the tragedy happened. I came to the U.S. on September 24. My expectations were shaped by the news stories on TV; I expected angry people, closed doors, and a barrage of misdirected hate. Fast-forward 10 years and I'm a proud American citizen." -- Jibran Durrani
9/11 forced New Yorkers to acknowledge our humanity: "I will admit that New Yorkers are a rough bunch, but that is due to necessity. At any given time, there is something going on in this city -- crime, disease, bed bugs, you name it; however, if you look closely under our hard exteriors and tough attitudes, we are just like everyone else. The 9/11 attacks forced us to acknowledge our humanity and connection with the rest of the world." -- SJ Johnson
Days after 9/11 were hardest for liberal, feminist and Muslim American: "Instead of being a trusted member of my community, I was not invited to weddings and parties because my ethnicity 'might cause tension.' Instead of addressing the need for more female teachers to be sent to educate the multitudes of illiterate girls in the 21 countries of Arabia, I was fired from four jobs in a row and insulted by bosses with ethnic slurs." -- Maryam Louise
Daddy's leaving again -- but he'll be home soon: "My children have only ever known a life that centered on the war on terror. It may go by different monikers now, but the theme is the same. My husband's job changed forever, as did our family, even before the first tower fell. When we celebrate Christmas, birthdays and anniversaries depends largely on the needs of the Navy and the Department of Defense -- and that's all right. It's defined us as a family. In countless ways, it's made us less selfish, stronger and more appreciative. And more than anything else, I never take a day together for granted. " -- Kimberly Morgan
A Muslim or an American? Tough questions for 11-year-old: "I am an American, born and raised. I lived in a suburb in North Carolina all my life, drank sweet tea, ate barbecue, Bojangles', you name it. My parents, though, are Turkish, and although they aren't the most devout Muslims, that is their culture and in part, mine. Turkey is a nation that is 99 percent Islamic. So after 9/11, when our nation collectively shunned Islam and the Middle East, I worried. Was I supposed to be a Muslim or an American? I didn't support the terrorism attacks. They repulsed me and I wanted revenge. My America wouldn't stand for this. Still, I was supposed to be a Muslim. The two sides seemed mutually exclusive." -- Doruk Onvural
10 years later, 9/11 a sobering experience: "This September marks the 10th anniversary of 9/11, yet it seems as if it happened last year. I now teach at a college near the World Trade Center and every now and then, I walk a few blocks south to see the progress of the buildings that are going to replace the twin towers. The tallest one is starting to soar above all the others in the Financial District. I can now look at these buildings without the sickness in my stomach. I have changed and matured. I appreciate how lucky I have been to grow up in America. And I appreciate more than ever that death can happen at any time, so it's important to embrace your loved ones while you can." -- Gerald Schoenewolf
Family's dual sacrifice a tough, but brave, task: "Ten years later, my life has completely changed. I am a sergeant in the United States Army, married to another sergeant of the United States Army, and we are very proud of what we do. Since 2006, I have been overseas three times, with two tours in Afghanistan. Holiday after holiday, our family copes with two empty seats at the dinner table -- one for me and one for my husband. It breaks my heart to not be there, but for those two empty seats at my home, there are many more at the homes of those who lost loved ones on 9/11. Knowing that at any moment either my husband or I may not return home, I hold my family very near and dear to my heart, and I cherish every moment." -- Rose Andrews
New York as vibrant as ever: "September 11 has affected me in a deeply personal way -- the way it still draws me into the filth and din and energy and chaos of New York City even to this day. I love New York. I love America. Rather than fear or anger toward the corrupt channels in our government, maybe what the terrorists have made me feel most is a devotion toward American freedom and pride for city that never sleeps." -- Jesse Schmitt
Hitting bottom after 9/11, but now looking up: "When you hit bottom, there is only one way to go: up. With only myself to rely on, I find work at a call center. It's the best I can do, since the economy has never recovered. There are no teaching jobs. Though underemployed, I take this job seriously, quickly earning my promotion to trainer. I make half as much as I did as a teacher, and I moved from the house in the suburbs to a one-bedroom apartment. Looking at the economy, the nation is still crumbling -- a decade after the dust of the twin towers has settled. But no matter how far I have fallen, I have landed on my feet. We all have." -- J.S. Anand
9/11 starts journey from despair to success: "Before 9/11, I was living in my own little bubble. I thought nothing bad could ever happen -- that my parents would live forever, and that our country's military would always be able to protect us. I was wrong. I am a far different person now. I am stronger, more enlightened and more capable of taking care of myself. And perhaps most importantly, I am no longer one of those people who stick their head in the sand. I am now firmly planted in reality, eager to meet whatever challenges life has to offer. For this I am grateful. To this day, my late father's wise words ring in my mind: 'Within all that is bad always comes some good.' I am a believer." -- Katherine Demijohn
Hoping for more '9/12 Moments' 10 years after the attacks: "As much as I'm horrified by 9/11, I am immensely grateful for 9/12. 9/12 was a day when neighbors looked out for each other; blood banks were fully supplied with donations and people everywhere wanted to help. Globally, humanity united to say, 'We are all Americans.' Since then, the social climate has become increasingly divisive, at times volatile. Regardless, I'm determined to make decisions that result in more 9/12 moments so terror will not win. That's how 9/11 continues to change me today." -- Sophia Tesch
Twins' birth a year after 9/11 proves life rebounds: "Even in the midst of tragedy and uncertainty, when the odds are against you and the future is bleak, there is still hope. There is still a miracle out there. There is life. Soon, we will mark the 10th anniversary of the horrendous loss of life and time that forced open so many wordless mouths that Tuesday morning. When I have done my remembering of the past, and whispered the silent prayers for those who suffered -- and still suffer -- I will reach out and wrap my arms around my 9-year-old identical twins, Lennon and Cooper, and comfort myself in the perpetual truth that there is always a future." -- Wendell Whitney Thorne
Sept. 11 attacks spur new career, move cross-country: "In the years since 9/11, I have moved more than 900 miles from New York City and changed professions. I went from planning parties to organizing fundraisers for the families of 9/11 victims, working in social services and volunteering for humanitarian-based organizations like Roots and Wings International, Twilight Wish and Story Corps. I've also learned to appreciate the little things in life more, like the way my husband's face lights up when he's happy, the laughter of children, the feel of the sun on my skin and the sweet smell of the magnolia blossoms that dot our back yard." -- Killeen Gonzalez
- September 11