20 years ago today, the world changed forever.
I remember being so scared that day as I watched the news coverage and saw the footage of planes crashing into buildings.
I remember wondering if the attacks were going to happen where I lived and feeling tangible fear while walking past a federal government building that afternoon.
I remember wondering if the world was ending.
I remember wondering what life was going to look like after that day.
It was truly a dark day in our country’s history…but, I also remember the good that ultimately came out of the events of that day.
I remember the graciousness we had for each other, as we all tried to figure out what to do next. I remember the outpouring of support and unity for first responders, firefighters and police officers. I remember the concern shown for one another, as so many people were grieving in different ways. Everyone was affected by the 9/11 attacks in some way.
And, that was just it. It seemed like everyone knew their neighbor was struggling and from that, I remember the gentleness shown toward each other in the weeks and months afterward. More than I could recall, people showed a sense of common respect for mankind because, when it all came down to it, we were all on the same team here in America when our freedom was threatened.
Sure, we were angry at what happened and wanted something to be done about it. But, there was an indescribable, though it often may have been subtle, kindness towards each other.
Sadly, that kindness seems to have largely disappeared in our society.
No matter what you do today, find some time to pay respect for what happened that day, two decades ago. I’m sure you probably will. It’s beyond just “the right thing to do”. It’s important to remember events like the ones of that day, because they have so much significance.
That said, I think the best way you could honor the lives of those who died as a result of those terrible attacks is to live in a way that makes life better for others, not worse. Live in a way that makes this country better.
Instead of attacking other people with our words, let’s build them up. Instead of insisting on your way being the only way and refusing to see others’ points of view, have an open mind…or, at least try to have one for a few minutes. Let’s be willing to see how other viewpoints, while not our own, may have merit. And, even if they don’t, that’s alright. It does not hurt a thing to have an open mind.
Try to see this is part of what makes our country great; we can disagree. More specifically, we can have differing views without having to feel bad for it or threatening others with our behavior about it. We can get offended less. We can forgive more. And, so on.
The amount of negativity, intolerance and outright bullying going on in our world right now is off the charts. If you don’t agree with someone on their stance about basically anything, you are ridiculed, shamed or worse. This is not America the beautiful. This is America the ugly.
So, let’s do something about it. This next part may strike a nerve, but you see, that’s kind of the point.
COVID has become the 9/11 of today. Its full impact on so many aspects of life may not be completely realized for a long time.
Where it differs from the tragedy of 20 years ago is how people have treated others in the wake of it. It could have brought us together, but it seems it has torn us apart. I have never seen so much vitriol in my life. We are truly being unkind to one another at a time when kindness has been needed the most. It is really sad. It doesn’t have to be this way.
It starts with me. It starts with you.
Instead of being angry at the person who wants others to get a vaccine, maybe see they have a legitimate reason for it. Instead of being angry at the person who doesn’t want to get a vaccine, maybe see they have a right to their opinion about it.
Instead of spewing out all kinds of “my way or the highway” talk on your social media feed, maybe start a conversation about it in a rational and potentially useful manner.
What if we offered genuine respect to each other, regardless of anything? What if we showed more love instead of more hate toward each other? What if we tried to come together instead of divide apart? What if we displayed some true understanding of our fellow human beings, instead of just demanding to have our way all the time?
My challenge to you today on the 20th anniversary of that awful day is to not be a source of harm in this world, specifically in the world around you. Instead, be a source of light. Be a source of unity. Be a source of peace.
We all have the ability to do it and I can’t think of a better day than today to start.