Each generation has its own set of tragedies, typically marked by one that surpasses all others. For my grandparents, it was Pearl Harbor. For my parents, it was the death of JFK. For my generation, it was 9/11.

It’s almost unbelievable that the day, so vivid in our nation’s collective memory, is now 16 years past.

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We all remember where we were on Sept. 11, 2001, as my parents do for the Kennedy assassination and my grandparents for Pearl Harbor. There is now a generation that is marked by this tragedy. Their lives have been shaped from such a young age by the events that, in many cases, they cannot actually recall — in what has been called the most brutal attack on American soil in generations.

Noah Rosario experienced 9/11 without even having been aware of it at the time. Rosario, age 17 today, recalls how this event and its repercussions affected his family as they and thousands of other Americans worked to heal and overcome the unimaginable.

At the time of the attack, Rosario lived in New York with his mother, Yolanda, and his father, Robert. Both parents worked jobs in the city while Noah attended day care or stayed with other family members.

The Rosarios discussed the events of Sept. 11 only sparingly, said the 17-year-old, noting that it’s a “hard topic to just nonchalantly speak about.”

His mother, 28 at the time, was a bookkeeper for a restaurant a few blocks from the World Trade Center; his father was a doorman.

With their Pentecostal background, the Rosario family was no stranger to finding faith and miraculous events in daily life. Some of those days just seemed a bit more miraculous than others.

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The day of the attacks began for the Rosarios as it did for most of the rest of us — like any other. On this day, however, Yolanda Rosario made a decision that would affect her far more than she ever realized: She decided not to go to work. She chose to stay home instead with her young son that day and enjoy some time with him. He was only two; he was her only child in 2001.

Mother and son spent the morning together around the house, playing, tidying up, then prepping for a nap, when the news came that New York City — and all of America — was under attack.

The first thought Yolanda Rosario had was a feeling of incredible gratitude — knowing she had been spared. This loving mother and hardworking employee almost never stayed away from work except for illness or emergency — which highlights even more the miraculous nature of her decision.

The terrified mother and wife couldn’t take herself away from the TV screen. Not long after the first plane hit the tower, the second plane hit as well.

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She gripped her young son, kissing his forehead and thanking God she hadn’t gone to work that day as so many others had — that she was not the one running from destruction into the arms of her fearful family. She could not erase the images in her mind of people jumping from windows or running down the street saturated with dust, frantically searching for loved ones. She watched in horror, knowing it could so easily have been her.

For days afterward, she and her husband felt endless gratitude — but it was marked with guilt.

The thoughts of “Why us?” crossed their minds repeatedly as they tried to make sense of it all and of the Lord’s graciousness in saving their family.

The city, loud and chaotic, eventually fell silent in the days and weeks that followed. Numb, silent, fearful, and in mourning, the city took the form of a ghost town, she said. Those who lived through the event found themselves silent among the dead and dying.

The Rosarios lived on, knowing that a decision that seemed so small and spur-of-the-moment that morning forever changed their lives. Had she not chosen to stay home with her son, she might have lost forever the opportunity to hold him again.

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This realization is with the Rosarios to this day — and their faith has been hugely strengthened. They believe there was, and is, a divine plan for their family. As so many others relive the loss of loved ones on Sept. 11, the Rosarios are reminded of how their lives were spared.

Stories circulate even 16 years later of the fearless firefighters, the police officers and other brave individuals who rushed into the city to help those in danger — often not making it out alive. This camaraderie taught the Rosarios about community, about loving their neighbors as themselves, about being aware of the tragedies of others. They learned to love and respect one another in ways that only those affected by tragedy can.

A few years after 9/11, the Rosarios welcomed their second child, Keilani, now 12. Together with their now-17-year-old son, Noah, the Rosarios believe the child’s life is a testament to purpose, to faith, and to trusting that God has a plan for all. Though their hearts have and continue to go out to those who were lost on 9/11, they live a life of gratitude — praising God for sparing them heartache and pain that day and beyond.

This article was published originally in LifeZette n September 2016.