It was a day just like today. I will never forget where I was; sitting in a dentist’s chair, unaware that Americans were dying in New York City. When I emerged from that appointment, the world had changed.
It is still painful to rewatch the archived footage. Recall the horror. Remember what happened on the bright, clear September morning so many years ago.
What saddens me, is that it seems we have not discovered how to heal from this tragedy. Remember the victims, acknowledge the horror, but also honor the best of who we were then. How we came together and rallied support for the police, firefighters, and the city of New York. How we cried and mourned for the innocents and heroes lost in that attack.
How we were unified in being Americans.
We weren’t perfect. We also pulled the shades and locked the doors on world neighbors who offered support. Let fear and hate creep into our hearts as we readied ourselves for years of war and revenge.
I am not naive. I know our world forever changed following 9/11. I understand we must be vigilant. I know we must protect the country from future attacks. What saddens me is that it appears we have given up our tolerance in the process. Propagated by the man who currently sits in the Oval Office, it seems we as a country have only perpetuated our fears, isolated ourselves, and highlighted our differences with the rest of the world instead of reminding ourselves of our innate commonalities.
As each anniversary approaches, I long for a unified remembrance of 9/11. One in which we could take the lead and initiate a shift in our world perspective. Honor those killed on 9/11, of course. But do it by reaching back into the world. Talking to each other. Listening to each other. Spending as much time, energy, and resources on understanding each other instead of building virtual and physical walls.
If it were in my power to do so, I would invite one child from each country to come to the 9/11 memorial each year on the anniversary of the attacks. Let them stand, hand in hand with American children, and offer these simple words, “I stand before you, in tolerance and peace, on your national day of mourning.”
Small emissaries speaking words of hope. Youthful ambassadors vowing to help heal the world they will one day inherit.
Now is the time to turn the tragedy of 9/11 into something the terrorists never envisioned when they flew those planes into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the field in Pennsylvania. Something bigger and more powerful than their message of hate and revenge. Something that is inclusive and enduring. Something that spreads a message of peace in the face of tragedy.
Something that, despite what the daily news might say, is deeply American. Something I believe the majority of Americans want to embrace.