September 11, 2001. We all remember where we were and what we were doing when the towers came down. I personally remember being at work prepping for a day of hearings when someone came in and said a plane had hit one of the World Trade Centers. We all jumped up, went to another room, and then watched in horrified silence as the morning unfolded, barely wanting to believe what our own eyes and ears were telling us.
Know what else I remember? I remember the days, weeks, and months post 9/11 and the feeling in the air in the communities around us, in the media. We suddenly seemed kinder, not so quick to cut that car off in traffic or perhaps allowing someone to get in front of us in the checkout. Whatever else our enemies were hoping for when they planned this attack, what they least expected was what actually happened. Instead of an America divided, we were an America united regardless of race, religion, or gender. We weren’t left or right. We were united Americans, and we were proud of it.
They say never forget. But I think outside of the anniversary of that day, most of us do forget. We forget the visual, we forget the fear, and we forget the enemy. Now the enemy is us. Less than 20 years later, what we are now is unrecognizable to just a generation ago. And I miss it. I feel almost guilty because of the horrific catalyst that led to that feeling, but I do. It surprises me to say it, but eventually, we felt good. Perhaps ‘good’ is the wrong word. But we felt changed. We all had each others’ backs. We talked to each other, seemed to trust each other. We were all going through the same thing.
So here we are, 19 years later, unrecognizable as the same country. Regardless of where you think the blame lies, ask yourself, in the end – and I have to say, this may well be the beginning of the end – are any of the reasons for this division so important? What should and will matter is love given and received. That is the measure of a life. How did we treat each other, our families, siblings, friends? Right, left, or middle, in the end, is it really going to matter which side we were on politically?
Stop for a moment and think. What if another 9/11 happened today? What if one of your family or close friends were caught in the tragedy? What if your neighbor or co-worker or even the homeless guy on the corner – what if they simply and suddenly didn’t exist? Would you have regrets?
I think that was the unexpected gift of 9/11. We didn’t want any regrets. We didn’t want any what-ifs. We checked in with our loved ones, expressed concern to strangers, and offered our help. We were united, all of us. My hope and prayer for today is that we can look past the outside cacophony of noise that is being shoved down our throats and remember. Remember the ultimate sacrifice of so many who lost their lives that day. Those heroes didn’t ask the victims where they stood politically. They didn’t discriminate against race or religion or gender choice when they risked their own lives to save theirs. The worst possible disgrace would be if that tragedy was for naught.
Remember that day, and then remember the gift of that day. And be kind.
Divide and conquer: to make a group of people disagree and fight with one another so that they will not join together against one. ~Miriam Webster