This is a very difficult time for people, these later days of summer. What should be a time for welcoming fall, shopping for new school clothes, picking out ugly sweaters, and pulling holiday boxes out of the attic, has, for the last thirteen years, been a time of grief and stark reminders of reality.
For the last thirteen years, not even the bravest of us can get on a plane and wonder, if just in the back of your mind, if you’re on the next disaster flight. The 21st century world differs greatly from the 21st century world in many ways, but no so much as it does in America’s psyche when it comes to national security.
I drive past the Louisville airport on my commute to work. I don’t think I’m the only one who has a brief flashback of 9/11 when I see the planes coming in or taking off. I don’t think I’m paranoid, because I know it isn’t likely going to happen the same way again, but so deep-rooted was that day’s calamitous impact that it really does still affect each and every one of us every day in some way.
It’s a conversation we can all contribute to with our own personal stories about where we were that day, how it affected us, and when we think the next strike will be. We all have our political opinions and subscribe to certain conspiracy theories. But in the end tomorrow’s observance of 9/11 ought to remind us not of the politics surrounding the attacks, or pointing our fingers at who’s to blame, but it should cause us to recall how, for a short time after the attacks, we were united as a country like our generation had never seen before.
Almost every car had an American flag clipped to its back window. Strangers were friendlier toward each other. Neighbors showed compassion that otherwise wouldn’t have been shown. Everyone, it seemed, at least for a short time, came together. The families of victims were suddenly America’s greatest concern – they became America’s families, whom I believe every one of them deserves medals of honor for their courage and strength, and the losses they’ve endured.
As terrible as those September days were in the wake of the new millennium, I wish that camaraderie and unity stuck around a little longer.
If you’ve lived through a natural disaster, you know about the warm feelings of neighbors meeting each other and sharing each other’s stories, and helping each other clean up the street.
With 9/11, it was an entire nation that came together; not just a block or a neighborhood. But somewhere from then to now, we lost sight of that unity and love for one another.
Somewhere among presidential races, and racial court cases, we lost sight of what it means to be united, to stand together as one nation, to blindly practice goodwill toward one another.
Let tomorrow’s somber reminders cause us to reflect on those times when political aisles were torn down and there was no white and black between us. It didn’t matter who you voted for or who you spoke with at the water cooler. What mattered was that you are an American and you were affected as greatly as I was, and we are in this together.