Recently I was in New York City with a small group of leaders from Adventist HealthCare, in meetings about the bond financing for the Washington Adventist Hospital project. From the windows of a conference room high above the city streets, we could look out and see the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Built on the site of the former World Trade Center buildings, which were destroyed by terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, they commemorate the victims, first responders, and families who were affected by the tragedy.

At the center of the memorial are two pools built within the footprints of the fallen Twin Towers. They feature the largest man-made waterfalls in the United States and symbolize the losses experienced because of the attacks. Surrounding the reflecting pools are the names of victims and a “Survivor Tree” that was recovered from the rubble. A museum on the site includes exhibits with images, artifacts, and oral histories of September 11, 2001.

It was impossible to suppress a wave of emotion as I looked down on the twin pools and recalled where I had been when I learned of the attacks. It was in an unused patient room at a hospital in Estherville, Iowa, alongside a group of workers from the hospital. We crowded around the TV in that small room and watched the tragedy unfold. We knew that all across the country our American family was watching and trying to make sense of it just as we were. As news of the attack on the Pentagon and then news of the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania came onto the screen, we wondered aloud about the scope of the attacks and how our country would respond.

As the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches, the history of how we responded is still being written, even as the impact of the attacks is still being assessed. A generation or two from now, perhaps there will be clarity and consensus about it. But even in those first moments after the attacks, our hearts were knit together in a common cause: to come together against that which would divide and destroy us, to push back against aggression, and to find ways to heal those whose lives had been shattered and irrevocably altered by the attacks.

The response to the attacks was immediate and decisive. Our nation responded to protect our ideals and immediately sought the preservation of our freedoms. We heard the call of duty and rallied to the defense of the American ideal.

We don’t always agree on how to achieve our goals, and internal arguments can challenge us and even divide us. But not for long. Even though we may disagree, and even though we never perfectly live up to our highest values, we bounce back. We are resilient and resourceful people. It’s in our DNA.