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Here we are in a nation whose youth can honestly question what it means to be patriotic. For we have seen no war. A nation where saying the pledge of allegiance is more of a chore than a declaration of national pride. For we know no different.

And ever so abruptly, terrorists have shaken our safety net of comfort. We have seen acts such as this in textbooks and heard from teachers, but never have we been moved quite like this. This is a new era, and the youth of our country are struggling to grasp it.

I lost my uncle in this horrid turn of events. He always loved reading my articles, so I felt it was right to acknowledge how these acts of terrorism have hit the nation.

My mother's 34-year-old brother, Chris Lunder, worked on one of the uppermost floors of the World Trade Center. After being with family for the past week, I realized that the hardest thing about this is that he was an innocent victim. He was not killed in a random street crime or on a battlefield defending his country.

He was killed for defending his country on a different level. He defended our great nation by going to work every day by choice. By walking the streets without fear. By living freely each and every day and expecting nothing more.

In the past week, America has given me pride. Not because of hate or because of fear or war. But because I have seen good deeds done for others by neighbors, friends and loved ones. For the first time in my life, I can truly feel patriotic.

At my uncle's house in New Jersey, dozens of neighbors with candles stood outside with candles gathered in prayer. At my own home, friends have left flags and candles in acknowledgment of the trauma that so many have suffered from this devastating loss.

For the first time in my life, I see a country united. United to help each other in this time of trouble and destruction. United to heal with caring and love. United to once again return to living our lives freely, as we should, in America.

Katie Baynes is a senior at Williamsville East High School.

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