The pain was nearly unbearable.
All he heard was screaming, crying, coughing, sirens blaring. All he saw was dust, smoke, blood, bodies. Oh, how many bodies he saw.
He couldn't take it.
How could someone do this? So many lives lost…and for what? Was there a good reason for this?
No. There was never a good reason to kill someone, anyone. But it wasn't just one person, two people, three people. It wasn't even hundreds.
It was thousands. In one day.
Sure, maybe in war, thousands of casualties are to be expected. The bloodiest of battles may cost that many lives in only one day.
But this wasn't war. It was just thousands of innocent civilians going about their morning like they always did; picking up a quick meal, trying their best to halt a taxi to escort them to work while talking on cell phones, discussing what to do in the upcoming meeting.
And now they were gone. No, not now. They had been gone.
For ten years.
America couldn't get out of bed. His left arm always stung on this day to the point where it was impossible to use. And it was always just this day and this day only.
But it wasn't just the physical pain that prevented him from moving; the mental and emotional pain was just as exhausting. For the past eight years, it took nearly all of his energy just to get himself out of bed, let alone to make the trips to Washington D.C. and New York City to mourn with the President, the victim's families, and the rest of his nation. He guessed the ninth year would be the same.
Wait a minute… America remembered England being persistent of America leaving some free time open today.
Remember, do not be too busy on the eleventh, England had told him.
America's face had turned to horror when England mentioned the eleventh. America had tried to persuade him to change the date, considering he didn't even know why England had asked him to leave some time in his schedule open, but England wouldn't budge on the date. Didn't England know what the eleventh of September meant to America? Of course he did; England lost a few of his nation's people on that day as well.
Then why would England refuse to change the date?
America sighed. No matter what England wanted, he wasn't going to skip out on the annual mourning with his nation. He grabbed the sling off of the side table next to his bed, set out from the night before as America had predicted the inability to use his left arm for the next day, and threw it over his shoulder to put his arm into.
This is going to be a long day… America thought as he proceeded to get ready for the day.
America was now in Washington D.C.
The President was surprised at America's early arrival and decided to move up his address to the nation about the tenth anniversary of the attacks.
As the President gave his speech, America noticed in the sea of people in black suits and dresses before him a young girl with stunning green eyes and long blonde hair wearing a black dress. She looked really familiar, but America couldn't place when he had seen her. Well, if he had at all; she just looked like someone he'd possibly seen before. How old did she look? Maybe six, seven at most?
Suddenly, the little girl turned around and squeezed herself in between the two women that had been standing next to her but surprisingly barely even moved when she pushed them aside to disappear into the crowd. America gasped, but didn't move or say anything.
The President called for a moment of silence. America and the rest of the crowd bowed their heads, silently mourning for a long minute.
After the moment of silence, the President ended his speech. He walked over to America.
"Thank you for coming, as always," he shook America's right hand.
America simply nodded.
America was now in New York City.
Coming directly to Ground Zero was always the hardest for him. He watched as hundreds of people came together and set flowers down in front of the memorials for the victims. Many were crying, as to be expected. Some stood and stared the pictures of the victims for several minutes, some even hours, before walking off. An entire fire station took a short break to visit the memorial.
And there she was again, the little girl from earlier. America spotted her standing in front of the firefighters. She was wearing something different this time, though; not a black dress, but a red and white striped shirt and jean shorts. He was having a difficult time figuring out where he might have seen this girl. He was pretty sure he had indeed met this girl somewhere before. But where?
Before he could even make the attempt to ask her, she spun around and threw herself into the crowd of firefighters.
"Hey, wait!" America now found himself in front of the firefighters. "Did you guys see a little girl with blond hair in a red and white shirt just now?"
The firefighters exchanged a few glances at one another in confusion. "No, we haven't seen a little girl," one firefighter shook his head. "But there are a lot of people here so it's hard to tell."
"But she was standing right in front of you!"
Another firefighter shrugged his shoulders. "Sorry. Is she yours?"
America frowned. "No. I just wasn't sure if she was… Never mind. It's okay."
America remained at Ground Zero for several more hours, but never saw the girl again.
America was now back at home.
It was almost nine at night. He still hadn't received a call or anything from England. Was he still going to come over for whatever reason?
He sat on his couch and lit a candle on a dark green candlestick, like he always did on this day after returning home. After spending a few minutes gazing at the candle, he heard a knock at his front door.
Could that be England? America slowly got up from the couch and made his way over to the door. He opened it to see who he guessed would be at his doorstep: England.
"Hello, America," he said, having a monotone look about his face.
"England…" America breathed. He didn't want to sound rude, but he kind of wanted some time to himself. "If it's possible, could you maybe-"
"Good, you're dressed," England nodded. "I want you to come with me."
"What?" America questioned. He was about to refuse. "England, I don't-"
"Come on." England suddenly grabbed America's hand and proceeded to drag him out of his house.
"America, please. I want you to see something."
England was being rather persistent, which was quite unusual, and America didn't think he could possibly refuse at this point. So he just lowered his head and let England lead him to…wherever he was taking him.
After a few minutes of silence, England spoke up. "Close your eyes."
"Close your eyes," he repeated.
America did as he was told and let England continue to guide him hand-in-hand. He had no idea what to expect, but as persistent as England was being he wasn't sounding demanding like he normally would. What was going on?
Suddenly, England stopped walking. America paused beside him.
"You can open your eyes now," America heard England say. America did so and nearly gasped. Take that back, he did gasp.
Many different countries were now standing before him, all holding candles. America quickly scanned faces. Both Italy brothers, Japan, Austria, France, Russia, China, Germany, Sealand, Canada, Spain, and so many others were here in this open field. Hungary and Seychelles were holding signs that said, "Never Forget 9/11" and "A World United."
America stood with his mouth agape, but a word never passed his lips. He couldn't speak, he was so surprised. This was what England had planned for this day?
"America," Austria started, "we may be different countries, but in some way, we were all affected by this. And we want to be here for you on this day of remembrance."
"It's been ten years," France said, "but that pain could never go away."
"Once England brought this idea up to us to be here for you, not one of us could refuse." Lithuania remarked.
Everyone nodded in agreement.
America had been used to the same routine every year since the attacks happen that he normally didn't cry. Sure, the pain of that day had been tremendous, but being the hero he was he was rather tough…or he tried to be. He cried every year on the inside, for all of the victims.
But now…every tear was being shed right now, in front of all of the countries.
All of his friends…
"You guys…" America sniffled. "The hero's… *sniff* not supposed to…"
"It's okay, America," Italy Veneziano said. "Even heroes cry sometimes…"
"America…" Canada said in his normal soft tone. "This is for you…"
Canada, Japan, and Sealand, the latter who handed his candle to England, held their candles out to America. To America's amazement, the candles suddenly changed colors; Canada's turning red, Japan's turning white, and England's turning blue. The colors of the American flag.
"Whether it's ten years later or a thousand years later, we will never forget," everyone chimed in unison.
America cried harder than he ever. When was the last time he cried like this? Any crisis in America's past would deem plausible, but never had so many people—so many different countries!—come together like this. It was…beyond heartwarming.
"England…everyone…thank you…so much…!" America managed to say. England handed his candle back to Sealand and held out his arms, which America couldn't help but fall into. All the countries huddled close together to comfort him.
"We're here for you, America." England said comfortingly, letting America cry into his shoulder for as long as he needed to.
The trip back to America's house was silent, but that was okay. England let America have his silence and wouldn't say anything unless America addressed him first.
When they reached his house, someone was standing on the front porch holding a candle.
"Huh?" America blinked. "Who's that?" Since he left without turning on his porch light, the only source of light around was the candle the person was holding.
Then the tiny fire on the tip of the candle flashed brightly for a split second before becoming a huge flame, much more than the candle should have been able to hold, to reveal the face of a young girl.
The same young girl with sparkling green eyes and flowing blonde hair from D.C. and NYC.
"Hey! It's you!" America called out, then noticed she was holding the same dark green candlestick that he lit every year on this date, which he had lit before he left with England.
The girl didn't speak, but she grinned.
"Do you know her?" England asked.
"I've seen her twice today, but I'm not sure if I know her. She looks…strikingly familiar, but I cannot for the life of me place where I've seen her…"
The two countries walked up to the little girl, and both suddenly wondered how she got the flame on the candlestick to be so big.
"Can I ask who you are?" America asked, quickly noticing that for the third time she had changed clothes. But this time, her clothes were in tatters. Her pink shirt was covered in blood and had many holes in it, and her previous long shirt was ripped in too many places to count. Her hair was ruffled up and she had scratches and cuts everywhere. The only true clue that it was, for sure, the same girl from earlier was her bright green eyes.
Everything that America just now noticed suddenly made asking his last question completely redundant.
The girl then giggled. She held out the candle to America, which he took a moment before he grasped the candlestick.
Then, before he could blink…the girl was gone.
"W-whoa!" England quickly glanced around. "Where did she go?"
America shed another tear. "To a better place…in the sky…"
"Huh?" England paused, trying to soak in what America just told him. "You mean…"
"She's dead. And she has been…for ten years."
England was about to question him further, then decided against. He patted America on his shoulder, comforting his friend once more as he cried for the girl.
"Maybe that's one reason why my arm hurts so much on this day…" America couldn't help but chuckle softly, tears still streaming down his face. "I couldn't help but be the best hero I could possibly manage. I hurt myself trying to save that girl from the North Tower before it came down. She ran in there in a panic after hearing her mommy was in danger. And she…she…" America didn't finish his sentence, but he didn't have to. England knew what had happened just by that description. He sat there and rubbed America's back for an indeterminate amount of time.
Finally, America wiped up his tears, which made a look of shock cross England's face.
"What is it, England?" America asked him.
"Your arm…" England pointed to America's left arm. "You can move it!"
America noticed that he had wiped his tears with his previously immobile left arm. He slipped the sling off and swiped at the air.
"Yeah, I can!" he sounded surprised.
"Maybe it was…that girl…" England mentioned.
"Yeah…" America agreed, and looked up at the sky. "Maybe it was…"
It had been a long day for America, but it had been beyond memorable. His friends were all there for him, and the little girl he had tried to save visited him and healed his previously injured arm.
It had been ten years since this nation had been in peril. Now every year after that had been one of remembrance.
And it would be. For the next hundred, thousand, however many years until the end of time.
And America would never forget. No one would.
September 11, 2001. Never Forget. Thanks for reading.
P.S. The pain of America's left arm is also supposed to be reminiscent of the fact that the attacks happened on the east side of the country.