I actually started composing something a week ago about September 11th, reminiscing about that day and the general mood of the country prior to the attack on the World Trade Center. As I paid attention to some 9/11 coverage during the past week, I was reminded of what the country was actually like, and that I was really viewing it with rose-colored glasses. Hey, I was a sophomore in college; I’d only just started paying attention to the world around me.
Thus, instead, I reflect on September 12th, or really, the initial days that followed September 11th.
Much like the JFK assassination and the generation(s) before me that were actually alive at that time, I remember exactly what I was doing at the time it all happened. I was in my dorm room and had just gotten up to read my Yahoo! News feed and see that a plane of some type had hit the first tower. I woke up my roommate and turned on CNN just in time to watch the second plane hit the second tower. On live television.
What followed over the next few hours, and few days, and few weeks, was a series of feelings. Confusion. Fear. Shock.
This country went through a terrible tragedy and, from it, came a sense of direction that it hadn’t had in awhile. My initial blog post was looking to those years before 9/11, and that it was a time that I wish we could all return to. However, in many ways, the country was already on a downward spiral of divisiveness, with the Lewinsky Scandal and Impeachment proceedings in the news. With a Dot Com Bubble bursting. With a Housing Crisis already in the works.
Really, a decade on, I’d like us all to reflect on where we were 10 years ago today, rather than 10 years ago yesterday. Sure, yesterday was incredibly important and it is equally important that all those lives were lost. At the same time, I think it’s essential that we remember how much of the country actually came together for a common purpose. Eventually, that purpose was misdirected toward other political goals. That purpose was used to divide the country even further than it’s ever been, certainly in my lifetime. And today, on September 12, 2011, we are about as divided as we could be.
But on September 12, 2001, we were all together. In grief. In searching. In wondering.
Yet also, in a desire to root out evil. A need to be together in service to our communities. To be together in solidarity and in support of our firefighters, policemen and EMTs, but also in support of each other.
Case in point: I read on Facebook that over 100 people from our church in St. Louis went to East St. Louis to be in service to others on September 10th as part of the Serve 2011 project. That’s the kind of feeling we should be getting from 9/11. Not only focusing on the attack itself, but also on the need to better ourselves that followed for the first few days and weeks after it. The thing that was designed to tear us apart that actually helped bring us together, even if only for a few short moments. Where we weren’t rich, poor, black, white, man or woman: we were just American. And we were all the same.
And that’s what we need to work toward finding again, 10 years later. Ten years after September the 12th.