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Becoming a Citizen on 9/11

Updated: Sep 11, 2021

Mom became a US citizen September 11, 2001 – the day terrorists hijacked the attention and lives of our country. In fact, as she took the test she studied for all summer, the terrorists were creeping through airports; when she went through the Oath of Allegiance to the United States ceremony, word of the attacks spread and airports and state/federal buildings, even the one she was in, were starting to close. She had just dedicated her citizenship to the United States and found out minutes later that we – yes, even her – as a nation were brutally attacked.

As a child, I imagine she never dreamed she would change citizenship, being proud of her own heritage. In the mid-1970s, Mom and Dad met at a pizza shop when he was stationed in Germany. They married, and when he had to come back to the States, she uprooted her life to follow her husband. They moved around as he finished his military career and she adapted to the US as a home, learning to speak English and picking up jobs when possible.

Given childhood stories, I’m sure both my parents were abused at a young age. And hard work has been a constant theme in my parents’ lives. They came from families where times were tough and you worked hard, even as a kid. Mom, specifically, was dropped off at a girl’s group home so her own mom didn’t have to raise her and, when she was home, lived a poor childhood, only receiving hand-me-downs and snacked on some sparse soup bones. But, she adapted and contributed to living in the US, possibly more than some natural born citizens. Together, Mom and Dad worked hard to build a family and a good, healthy, and productive life.

I remember Mom and Dad weighing the options of her citizenship. She didn’t have intentions of living in Germany again. And Mom wanted the security and unity of being a US citizen. However, it wasn’t until this previous pandemic year, that I realized we never truly acknowledged Mom’s citizenship. In those early years, the attacks overshadowed her accomplishment and throughout the years it became commonplace. It’s now been 20 years and I shamefully have never celebrated Mom’s choice and determination. Her willingness to put aside what she once was and identify with the rest of her family. Just to be more united. To proudly say she is a citizen of the United States of America.

Still today, her habits and tendencies exude her German-ness, like her still noticeable German accent, her directness, and automatic sensibility. I love mom’s German heritage. I love that she is bilingual and has a family overseas to interact with. One of the things I love most is that 50% of my blood is from such a strong and respectable culture and woman.

My mom has never been the typical American mom with her brash and frank ways; a usual conversation between the two of us can often sound like a harsh argument. That is okay. She is strong, remarkable, and resilient. This year, two decades later, I’ve decided to honor [and spoil] Mom because she – much more than – deserves it.

Perhaps that is what I have learned most throughout this pandemic experience – to reflect, to celebrate, and to appreciate what God has given me. I’ve realized I take my own life and amazing circumstances for granted. It’s just so easy to do in our day-to-day life.

I know 9/11 is a painful anniversary for my fellow Americans. It is a day of remembrance and honor in so many ways. I definitely feel and respect that. However, today my family and I will celebrate my mom. And we will continue to cherish the blessing of living such an incredible, privileged life.

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