Stories of Hope: The Power of Unity and Resilience

A soldier stands in a training camp environment in his fatigues.

Growing up in Florida, Carlton Shelley II’s family taught him that while people might not always remember what he said, they would always remember how he made them feel. As he looked back on pivotal moments in his life, the U.S. Army veteran recalls the feelings that are still palpable to this day.

On September 11, 2001, Shelley was a student at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. That day, President George W. Bush was visiting another class of students at the school when he was informed of the attacks. “Though at that age I could not conceive the gravity of those events,” Shelley clearly remembers the “transition from excitement to confusion to fear” that day.

Years later, after attending the United States Military Academy West Point, Shelley “felt a sense of, just, purpose” when he was assigned to the 9th Calvary Regiment, a historically all-Black unit known as the Buffalo Soldiers. 

Feelings of purpose and pride have prevailed, even in difficult times. “As I have witnessed social injustice experienced by millions, and how others have chosen silence in the face of the struggle for basic human rights,” Shelley says, “I am reminded of the resilience, hope, and unity we possess, something I felt strongly during my first visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum.”

In 2018, Shelley visited the Museum for the first time with some of his colleagues where they shared their memories of 9/11. From Shelley’s perspective, “the mission of the Memorial is as applicable today in our current situation as it was in the wake of 9/11.”

He points to part of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum mission that he believes is especially relevant today.

May the lives remembered, the deeds recognized, and the spirit reawakened be eternal beacons, which reaffirm respect for life, strengthen our resolve to preserve freedom, and inspire an end to hatred, ignorance, and intolerance.

Shelley encourages others to reflect on how the lessons we learned in the aftermath of 9/11 can apply today. “As we reflect on our lost loved ones, deeds of frontline workers, and others fighting for our freedoms and equality, let’s keep top of mind how our actions or our inactions make people feel, because that’s what they’ll remember.”

By 9/11 Memorial Staff

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