Honor The Memory of September 11th

Posted on 09/11/2010

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Picture taken by me in 1991 from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade

A little departure today, as 9-11 is on my mind, as it is for all of us. Much has been written this past week about that tragic day and what has transpired in the nine years since then. I have avoided these stories, having no desire to relive the horror and panic I felt during that time. Yet this morning, as I finished my morning run, the impact of the day fell upon me.

I did not lose anyone close to me on September 11, 2001. Some of my family and friends were at or near the Twin Towers, but survived the attack. While they were shaken-up and we were worried for their safety, we were all certainly lucky in the context of the day. Like most people, I did not need to go far outside my circle to find stories of tragedy–the president of our soccer club who got to work early so he could be home in time for practice, the neighbor of my in-laws, father of two young daughters, who didn’t make it home that night. Many of our friends and relatives in the  law enforcement and  fire department communities worked grueling hours searching for survivors. They then spent the next few months attending funerals and memorial services for their many lost friends and colleagues. It was a time of impenetrable sadness.

But looking back I also remember the positive energy that appeared in the days that followed. Dickens had it right when he wrote of “the best of times” and “the worst of times.”  During the weeks after 9-11, in our sadness and in our grief, we as a nation came together in a way I had never witnessed in my life time. Old Glory flew from poles extending from houses, stores and cars alike. Together, adults and children gathered clothes and food for those combing the debris field that became known as Ground Zero. We watched the news with hearts open and full of sympathy as family members of the victims posted pictures and frantically sought information about their loved ones. We honored the courage shown by the passengers and crew of Flight 93 who they gave their lives to thwart an attack on a fourth target. Overall, it seemed we were a kinder and more patient people. I was never more proud to be an American.

As time passed, so too did the sadness and so too did our common bond. Conspiracy theories about the attacks abounded. Once again, motorists started honking at street-crossing pedestrians. The political parties renewed their partisan squabbles. We returned to being a nation of blue states vs. red states, rich vs. poor, citizen vs. immigrant, union vs. management. Overall, it became us vs. them.

As I sit here at my keyboard, remembering the loss of the almost 3,000 people who died in the attacks, the almost 7,000 coalition soldiers and countless civilians who have since died in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the untold number of first responders who have died or suffered debilitating illnesses as a result of their self-less actions, I also mourn the loss of civility and purpose we had during the months that followed that day.

The most fitting memorial for those we have lost is to find that common ground once again, this time not in tragedy, but in the earnest desire to do better as a nation and as a world. Our problems are too complex for there to be full agreement on the solutions. But our differences need not be grounded in hatred, fear and anger or upon the talking points our pundits feed us in convenient sound bites. Let’s work together selflessly, earnestly and passionately to make the world a better place. Let’s work together to truly honor the memory of 9-11.

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Posted in: 9-11