Each of us remembers exactly where we were when we first heard about the planes crashing into the Twin Towers.
We can instantly recall the exact moment as if it happened only yesterday. No one needs to recap the details of what we witnessed. There is no reason to relive the range of emotions we went through as we watched the continuous live coverage of the worst terrorist attack on American soil. We were there. We lived through it. We will never forget.
We will never forget the people who died that day.
We will never forget who it was that attacked us.
But have we forgotten what it felt like to be an American on that day and the grim days that followed?
We came together as a nation. We felt empathy for those whose lives were lost or disrupted. We felt sympathy for the victims' loved ones, as well as one another. We vowed to fight back. We realized that we were all in this together. We empowered our representatives to work together to make us each feel safe again.
We needed to feel safe again.
On 9/11/01, we were vulnerable. We were at the mercy of a destructive force that we had failed to detect, let alone protect ourselves from. We were victims. We felt insecure.
We didn’t like feeling insecure.
We gathered together in the aftermath of the attacks in order to feel secure. We took comfort in one another’s company, even if we were surrounded by total strangers. For that brief period in our recent history, we didn’t let our individual diversity keep us from coming together as one people.
With deep resolve and singularity of purpose, we were intent on returning ourselves to normality. We were Americans. There was nothing that we couldn’t overcome together. Nothing or no one could break our American Spirit.
Each September 11th, I don’t want to be reminded of the horror, shock, fear, desperation, and sadness I felt in 2001. I remember it all too well – I don’t need to replay the news coverage, attend a memorial, or watch a movie dramatizing that awful event in order to recreate those raw emotions. I don’t need to be reminded by anyone that we run the risk of becoming complacent should we fail to reflect appropriately on this day.
September 11th is with me always. And I’m sure that it’s with you, as well.
Today, I choose to remember the outpouring of empathy after 9/11/01. I’m commemorating the spirit of all the patriots who were able to put themselves in other people’s shoes in order to help them heal. I am honoring the victims by continuing to offer empathy to all Americans who find themselves randomly targeted and unwillingly victimized - whoever they are and wherever they may be. No one deserves to suffer for the amusement or personal enrichment of another.
I will never forget. I will keep American Empathy alive.
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