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?