SARASOTA - The school bus ride still haunts Joshua Mellits that fateful morning of September 11, 2001.

He saw the smoke, the second plane hit, and then finally both world trade center towers come crashing down. He was scared. He was only 12. What would he tell himself if he could go back in time to the moment that changed our world as we know it?

“That’s a good question. I would tell that 12-year-old that, its’ going to be, okay. That there’s going to be a lot of changes coming to the country and that it’s alright to share your story," says Mellits.

Mellits lives on the Suncoast now, but then, he was just a seventh grader from Philadelphia heading to Connecticut for a fieldtrip.

“We start seeing cars pulling off the side of the road. And we thought we saw smoke coming from the tower because we had a clear view of Manhattan from there. And then, we see the second plane hit the tower," says Mellits.

At that point, even as children, they understood this was no accident.

“We got off the road as soon as we could, got off at a rest stop and from there we saw the towers collapse," says Mellits.

That moment, for Mellits, like many other, shaped what he would go on to do in his adult years.

"Jewish National Fund-USA helped to build the world’s only memorial in the world outside of the United States has every name listed of the victims that perished that day and that’s the site just outside the hills of Jerusalem," says Mellits. 

Through his work as the Western Florida Director of the Jewish National Fund- USA Mellits finds peace in preserving the memory by telling his story and the ultimately sharing a message of hope.

"We can have a day and point to this time where this is what happened to us, where it’s not about what happened to us, but how we respond," says Mellits.