As today marks the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, I thought it was only appropriate that I reflect on the events of that fateful day, through the lens of our current culture.
Just about every American you talk to can remember where they were that day…like it’s this generation’s Kennedy assassination or Pearl Harbor. I, personally, was living in California at the time, so the chaos on the opposite coast of the country felt more surreal than frightening. By the time I was awake and watching the coverage, both the towers had already collapsed like an implosion in a blockbuster disaster movie, and while I cringe at my own words when I relay it like that, I think a lot of us were in movie mode that day—not entirely willing to believe the things we saw and heard were really true.
The one good thing I saw coming from the evil of that day of large-scale homicide was the spirit of unity it created in a country so often divided by petty grievances and paradigm rifts. For a few months, it seemed like perhaps the United States wasn’t actually losing its footing on the slippery slope toward becoming a post-Christian nation. The unspeakable evil perpetrated on the American people kindled a flame in the hearts of many, and the small irritations over minutia passed away as we all fought to make sense of the senseless, and for many, to grieve the lost.
A combination of being back on the east coast now, as well as listening to all kinds of accounts of September 11th on the radio as we close in on the anniversary has changed my perspective on the events of that day. It’s transitioned from a three-thousand mile distant atrocity to a backyard horror that personally touches the lives of people I know. But I’m also seeing a new atrocity to add to it all.
We’ve grown forgetful.
We’re back to our petty grievances. God continues to be maligned in the public sector. The small-town camaraderie September 11th created in New York is only a rosy-hued memory now, stained by bus exhaust, chronic hurrying, and national economic turbulence that has made so many of us forget how to bear with one another.
It makes me think of the thousands of individuals who carry on every day without their loved ones…without people who lost their lives in the towers, in the pentagon, or on flight 93. These families and friends forge onward bearing wounds that will never entirely heal, but now must do so in the absence of real moral support. The fact that we as a nation have reverted to our pre-September 11th ways, in my mind, profanes the sacrifices of those families. The least we can do for individuals who sent firefighter spouses into burning buildings to try to help–only to see those heroes again when their bodies were pulled from the rubble—is to remember. Really remember. To remember is to be a people who remain changed by the events of that day. We kid ourselves to think the war waged against us by terrorists isn’t personal. As much as it hurts, how much more vigilant would we all be if we continued to take a personal interest in the people the violence affected most?
Join me today in a moment of thankfulness for the ten years of safety we’ve had on our own soil, purchased by the sacrifices of those whose full-time job it is to keep us safe, spurred by the unalterable loss of the thousands of people who never saw it coming.
God Bless America, in spite of ourselves.