No one I know who is old enough needs to be reminded of this day. Of the horrifying shock, the sheer depth of the tragedy, the fear that set in as the chilling images were repeated over and over again, as that city—New York, New York—disappeared into a storm of fire and ash.
My family suffered no losses that day, but we lived within a long-commute of Manhattan. My son had friends who worked near the towers. My daughter’s former colleague and one of her high school friends lost their fiancés. My best friend’s son remembered seeing a single shoe falling from the sky.
I hope the sadness that 9/11 left in its wake will never leave us, that we will always remember the losses suffered—those 3,000 people who started the morning like any other, in New York, in Washington, on the plane headed for the Capitol that went down near Somerset, PA. No one can imagine how they suffered, or the pain their loved ones endured and still carry in their hearts.
Given the horrible polarization we are experiencing in this country at present, recalling 9/11 brings to mind two points that I think are especially worthy of contemplation.
First, the death toll was indiscriminate, across all of the segmentation that now seems so painfully divisive—race, sexual orientation, religion, age, income, USA born or immigrant, R or D. We were together in the molten nightmare of 9/11. We lost and mourned and began to recover side by side, as part of a national family, united in our grief and our resolve.
Second, there’s Fred Roger’s mother’s well known call to “look for the helpers.” Today, I am thinking of them and am thankful for the first responders who stormed “into the valley of death” with the hope of saving even a single stranger.
Bad things, like 9/11, and the history of horrors perpetrated across thousands of years, happen. Human nature unfortunately being what it is, a constantly warring duality of good and evil, some people go sour, driven by greed or the lust for power, or who-knows-what, perhaps even a line they have been handed over a lifetime and never thought or cared to question (i.e., the blind ideology of the hijackers). And then there are those who sadly just lose control, taken over by fear or anger or self-survival or inner demons of another sort.
The wrongs that break our collective heart need to be righted. Society depends on order and justice, ideally driven always by the divine command to love one’s neighbor as oneself. For those who are not religious, read the “Golden Rule.” But 9/11 should remind us, now more than ever, not to paint with too broad a brush. We must never, ever forget that the courage we witnessed on 9/11 is repeated every day across this nation, when our first responders—police, fire, military, and, particularly this year, our countless medical heroes—willingly and selflessly walk without hesitation into life-threatening situations to save us.
Today, as fires rage across the Western United States, with families, homes, and livelihood at great risk, I look for our brave and selfless firefighters, and all of their lifesaving partners, and there I find hope.
Note: This is a post about humanity, not politics. I appreciate all who read my blog and value your opinions; respectful, non-political comments are always welcome. Be well and safe, and appreciate the small joys of every single day.