What Story Are You Writing About 9/11?

It was just another day before school. I was watching CNN to see what was going on in the world when everything flipped to the breaking news in New York. A plane had just flown into a building.

Angela was still brushing her hair in our bedroom. I relayed the news – at that time, no one knew what was going on.

As she walked into the room to look, we watched live as the second plane hit the other tower. It was immediately clear that the crashes were no accident.

Our worlds changed that morning in ways we couldn’t fathom. Whether you live in the US or not, your worlds changed, too.

In the ensuing years, our little family became a military family. What started as joining the Army National Guard to serve our state and country in emergencies became a life-changing deployment and follow-on assignments that kept both of us in the pretty-much full-time transitions that are the current reality of both reservists and active duty military servicemembers and their families. It’s not just the Soldier, Airman, Seaman, or Marine that this touches – their in-home family, their extended family and friends, and their community goes in flux as some suit up for training or deployment and the hearts of everyone else goes with them. I haven’t worn the Green Suit since 2010 but, suit or not, it’s something that’s still a part of who I am; I’m thankful for that.

I’m sadder today about the events of that day because I feel more connected to the suffering of the people who lost someone in the attacks and the downstream losses that occurred because of them. I now have friends who are New Yorkers and I’ve heard their stories and felt their pain. Our generally more suspicious and fearful national mindset is something that will take years to change – if it ever does. The media’s intrusion into our lives now keeps the fear and suspicion ever-present at the same time that the pace of the world is speeding up.

But amidst the suffering, loss, fear, suspicion, and uncertainty are important reminders and opportunities. Reminders that we are connected to the events that happen a half-world away; that embracing different cultures is far superior to merely tolerating them; that we have a generation of Americans who are both poised for greatness and have incredible responsibilities to bear and challenges to solve. (Click to tweet – thanks!) Opportunities to reassert our values, from the national level on down; to understand that those terrible and shocking events 12 years ago are part of the daily lives of people across the world; to prepare that generation for the future that awaits them, even if that just means teaching them to be adaptable, open, and value-centered because, like the events of 9/11, what they will face is beyond what we can understand.

I used to worry that 9/11 would just become another holiday. We’d think about it one day of the year, the politicians would do their speeches, and the next day, we’d be back to life as usual. I now see that that’s impossible. Regardless of whether we think about the earthquake that was that day, we feel the aftershocks every day.

The choice we have is how to remember and think about that day. My choice is to reflect on the loss, sorrow, and fear but to commit to mending broken wounds, rekindling a sense of values and community, and preparing for a future that will contain unforeseeable goods and ills. What story are you writing about 9/11?

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  1. Anita says

    This is one of the best 9/11 articles I have read today. I live in the UK and I can clearly remember the awful days of this tragedy, including the complete shocked silence the day after as people travelled to work on London underground, all of us still reeling from the enormity of what had happened. In the years since, UK television continues to show footage of the planes. Year after year the media chooses to replay those awful images and in many ways this only keeps us thinking of that fateful day. Your post is a wonderful and poignant reminder of how many lives had to continue after that day. Today I hold those people in my thoughts, all who have had to live with loss. Thank you Charlie for reminding me.

  2. Kimbol says

    9/11 as “just another holiday…” When those of us who read this in 2013 have died, and our grandchildren are the remaining witnesses to the tears we shed in memory of this day, Patriot Day will become like Remembrance (Veterans’) Day is now
    I try to find a poppy to wear each November 11th. I’m that man’s grandchild.

  3. says

    It has been eleven years to the day since a crazed bunch of lunatic fanatics attacked America, killing thousands of innocent people and costing the lives of hundreds of first responders. Even all these many years later, the images from that morning are clearly imprinted on my mind. I was in our home preparing to go to work when my wife called me to the television in our bedroom. We sat transfixed as the disaster unfolded in real time and in living color. What a complete and ultimately futile attack on our beloved country by a group of terrorists led by a thankfully now dead Osama bin Laden. Yes, he cost us a lot of lives. And a lot of money. And got us involved in some wars that are still hurting our economy. But he never hurt our spirit.

    As an Army veteran myself, I empathize with and support our troops. The thousands who have given their lives, the tens of thousands who have given their limbs and the hundreds of thousands of support men and women in our armed forces. Thank you, people, from the bottom of my heart, for your service. Your efforts are appreciated and they help me, at least, to know that no one can ever destroy the spirit of the American people. We will never forget. May God bless you and may God bless the United States of America.

    • says

      The question you pose in your great piece is “why does it take tragedy for us to unite?” I’m not sure why we need it, but one of the reasons it works is because it reminds us of our interconnectedness and vulnerability. No matter who we are, we have the same story with such an event.

      I’m a dreamer, but imagine if we remembered that we all share a surprisingly similar story every day? Thanks for commenting, Blair. :)

  4. Siita says

    My 9/11 story would be about connection.
    When world events evoke strong emotions they help break barriers that exist between races and cultures. I know Australia sent a team of their finest firefighters and reciprocal gestures have happened with the USA sending help in our and New Zealands hours of need.
    That left me feeling much more of a connection to the responses and values we share.
    That connection underpins the value I find in fine people like yourself.

  5. Zoe Potter says

    I was only a three week old baby when 9/11 happened. I want to create a foundation about 9/11 helping the families get through these tough times. The day will haunt everyone forever I will always remember and so should everyone else.

  6. Jo Thresher says

    A really thoughtful article. Thanks you. I was in labour with my son who has (obviously) just turned 13 as the planes hit. My emotions are therefore different to many peoples around this day. One day I intend to explore this more thoroughly but I always take some time around this day to remember the loss and sadness and hope that my son never has to watch or experience a similar event.

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