The divisions in our nation at times seem too great to overcome. Democrats and Republicans, the Tea Party and socialists alike often forget the unifying factors that make us one people. Our faith. Our compassion. Our hope. And our determination and sheer force of will to overcome any adversity that crosses our national path. Indeed, the unity of our people is often masked by our own discourse. But never should that unity be called into question.
Ten years ago, our nation faced what is arguably the greatest test to which our people have faced since the Civil War on our own soil. We watched as the Twin Towers were hit, as onlookers fled, and in horror as the towers ultimately fell. We mourned the tragic losses and rejoiced the heroism of first responders and the average man and woman who rose to that day’s tragic challenges. Our unity was doubted that day and America rose to the occasion as we always have.
I grew up in post-Cold War America. I never feared a nuclear attack or a Soviet invasion. The America I grew up in was invincible, never threatened and never afraid. All of that changed on September 11, 2001. In many ways, I grew up that day. We all did.
I watched as the events unfolded with horror and uncertainty. Later, I watched as our hurt turned into a quest for justice. I watched us come together and I watched as we drifted apart. I have not always agreed with the actions of my country since then. But even at our best, I’ve watched. And at our worst, I’ve watched.
Ten years later, I am still watching. Now, however, I don’t watch with the fear of even hurt as the events of 11 September seem so far removed from the present day. I watch, ten years later, instead with reflection. I reflect on the horror and the heroism, the unity and the division, and the past decade of our nation’s journey in this new world. I remember the faces of Americans realizing the gravity of loss as they came to terms with knowing that their family members would never come back home and the faces of Iraqis and Afghanis as they realized the same loss. I remember it all, as both a distant memory and as yesterday’s news headlines. It has almost blurred into a sea of past and present: Deaths a decade ago and deaths yesterday, deaths in our homeland and deaths in the desert. And in that sea, it is easy to forget our unity and our journey forward.
Ten years have passed since the 9/11 tragedy, and indeed the divisions in our nation seem once more too great to overcome. And as I reflect today, I realize that the virtues that make us American also make us Iraqi. They make us Afghani. They make us Russian, French, Korean, Ugandan, and Venezuelan. These are our common humanities that make us one people, one species on this tiny rock in a vast universe. All the same. And I understand, ten years later, that terrorism will never be defeated with the pulling of a trigger or the dropping of a bomb. It will come with the extended arm and open palm to join hands with our brothers and sisters of all nationalities, faiths, and races. Today, as we reflect on the events of a decade ago, I hope that we can mark this not as the tenth year since our injury, but as the first year of our healing. Let’s make today Day One of our quest to make unity our primary goal and to use love to fight the hate that seems so ever-present in our world.
Photo: Ground Zero. PW flickr account.