Most of us born before September 11th, 2001 have a memory of what we were doing that day before tragedy struck – and we’ve let many people, friends and strangers alike, know these stories. We’ve heard many stories of the brave and fearless, made movies of the men and women on the planes and entering into the burning towers, and heard stories of communities and people coming together in the wake of the aftermath. We made changes, built memorials, and fought back against those accused of being responsible.
In the years that followed, however, we’ve gone down a dark and ugly hole that now threatens to tear our country apart. A black man once celebrated as becoming the first black president has been harassed by people trying to tie him to the Muslims who were responsible for those attacks 15 years ago, and are looking to do the same to the female presidential candidate who might succeed him. Because of the actions of a few hateful individuals on both sides of the line, police officers around the country – once respected in the wake of this tragedy – now face harassment, endangerment and death for doing their job. We have a presidential candidates threatening to build a wall dividing us from our southern neighbor in Mexico, while keeping a group of people out whose only ties to the terrorist groups are the religions both claim to worship. We have various groups – Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter – labeled as “hate groups,” and a strong divide between color and religion, race and class.
Fifteen years ago, in the minutes, hours, days, and eventually months that followed the first plane hitting, that first tower crashing, after witnessing death and destruction and hearing massive losses – we were united. Yes, a few people were angry and hateful, but for a while we forgot about race, religion, and class. We respected those who carried a badge, remembered the heroism and sacrifice many of them carried that day. For a while, the only colors important to your skin was if you were lighter than normal (aka sick.)
Fifteen years ago today, men and women, young and old, were sacrificed. They didn’t ask or choose to be sacrificed or injured – 19 assholes who were part of a larger hate group chose that for us. Their sacrifice, however, meant discussion and unification – granted, it was around a common enemy, but it did bring us together.
For a while, at least…
Do we need another tragedy, another day of planes bombing buildings, of people shooting at each other, to remind each other not to hate each other? Can we unite again, in the wake of the many shootings and riots that have followed in our country since then? Can we start remembering what being American is supposed to mean?
I hope in the future we use this day to honor those who put on Police, Firefighter and Paramedic uniforms, as well as to unite us as one people under one skin. I hope our hate that we have now eventually dissipates and disappears, that we can get back to seeing ourselves as equals again, regardless of what region or belief you came from or are going to.
I hope, in another 15 years, we haven’t forgotten what brought us together in the first place, that we haven’t forgotten how united we were. If we do, then – to borrow an oft-used phrase – “the terrorists will truly have won.”