The morning of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, remains etched in memory forever. In Boston the sky sparkled nearly cloudlessly, the air was a tinged mix of summer’s slow passing and approaching autumn.

The morning of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, remains etched in memory forever. In Boston the sky sparkled nearly cloudlessly, the air was a tinged mix of summer’s slow passing and approaching autumn.


Unaware of the day’s now historical significance, I, like millions of others, was settling in for yet another routine day at the office.          


Then came the slightly breathless voices of colleagues: “Turn on the TV,” “Make it louder,” “What’s happening?,” “Oh my God.” Even the typically temperate tones of the people on TV cracked with emotion.            


Thereafter, many of us were never the same again. Some gave up good jobs to take more meaningful ones for less pay. Some signed up for the Army. Some moved from the city to the countryside. Some got married. Some got divorced.          


I became an American.           


After proudly carrying my burgundy-colored British passport around for years through U.S. Customs, ports and security checkpoints, I decided to trade it in for a blue one. I applied to become a U.S. citizen.             


Explaining why I felt the need to do so isn’t easy. Like all matters of the soul, the reasons lie hidden and deep beneath the misty layers of consciousness. I am not any more fond of hamburgers, hot dogs, apple pie or Chevrolets. I don’t even like baseball all that much.


But I know beyond a doubt that I am now a full-blooded American. And I know that in a strangely tangled way it’s because of the wellspring of emotions triggered by 9/11.             


“America is the best half-educated country in the world.” – American philosopher and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Nicholas Murray Butler.


Yanks, as I once used to call Americans, are a remarkably incurious and arrogant lot. I used to think that. Me? I was born and schooled a Brit, and having spent much of my youth in a number of Her Majesty’s far-flung colonies in the Far East, I was quite cognizant of the respect owed to the native independence of newly reborn nations like India, Burma, Malaysia and Hong Kong. After immigrating to the U.S. in the 1970s, I fancied myself, rightly or wrongly, a cosmopolitan, contentedly free of provincial prejudice — and thus, so un-American.            


But sometime on that doleful September day and the weeks and months that followed, I began to see America differently. Slowly, over those thousands of sobering hours, it became clear to me that Americans die for others.          


After poring through pages of government reports, jihadist literature and media reflections, I am now convinced that the fiery destruction of the 2,980 men, women and children who perished in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the four hijacked airplanes was in large part due to America’s unflinching efforts to maintain stability in the Middle East.


In fact, for more than half a century — ever since American replaced Britain as the new empire — it has shed much blood for other people.            


The Congressional Research Service, the statistical arm of the U.S. Congress, reports that more than 99,640 American men and women have died either on or off the battlefield in five major conflicts since 1950. The death toll was highest in Vietnam (58,220), followed by Korea (36,574). Iraq has claimed more than 4,460 U.S. lives. The Persian Gulf and Afghanistan wars account for the remainder.       


The difference between those deaths and Sept. 11’s was that the latter occurred at home and not on foreign soil.


“But I with mournful tread, Walk the deck my Captain lies, Fallen cold and dead.” — Walt Whitman


On that sad morning 10 years ago, I spoke to several people on their cellphones just before they died. Frantically scrambling between the Twin Towers’ escape routes and their high-rise desks, they were nice enough to give me an account of what was going on in those scalding towers. As a reporter for the Wall Street Journal at the time, I was covering the story out of the newspaper’s Boston bureau. I later learned some of those I spoke to never made it out of the building.              


The stories of that day’s dead have since risen out of the ashes. Many are to be remembered for their bravery and selflessness.            


Welles Remy Crowther, a 24-year-old equities trader, made it out of the building many times, but he kept going back in to guide others out of the blinding smoke. He was able to do this by breathing through a red bandana placed over his nose and mouth. But Welles went back in to help once too often. His body was found in the lobby of the South Tower, together with a number of firefighters who apparently died when the structure collapsed.               


The 2006 movie “Flight 93” also painfully tells of the heroics of a group of passengers who took back their plane that morning. In their struggle with the hijackers on that flight, the plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, aborting a possible attempt by the terrorists to fly the craft into the White House.              


I was humbled by these tales of valor. No longer could I be smugly un-American. I also came to realize a well-cloaked cowardice within me. Knowing how hated Americans are abroad, I had secretly been hoping that my European Union passport would save me from any anti-American sabotage or hostage-taking.               


Inspired and contrite, I resolved to become brave.             


On Sept. 27, 2005, along with 3,000 others in a Boston auditorium, I raised my right hand and pledged allegiance to the United States of America.


Joseph Pereira is now a freelance journalist, documentary filmmaker and adjunct professor at Emerson College in Boston. He worked for the Wall Street Journal for 22 years.