A year ago I sat with my Journalism students and watched in disbelief as our world and our lives changed forever. It was a news event of the grandest proportions, but any journalistic spark that I felt initially was quickly snuffed out by the magnitude of what we were seeing. We just sat, and watched, and tried to comprehend.
A year later, what has changed? Everything. Nothing. Personally, I’m more scared, more cynical, more hope-less about the world. I ache when I look at my daughter and my son, wondering if they will make it to middle age, wondering what it will be like to live their whole lives under an uncertain cloud. I hear an airplane jetting through the pink, early morning sky and wonder if it will make it to where it’s going. I cringe at wives of heroes making a buck on their husbands’ unselfish acts. I watch my leaders declare orange alerts, beat their chests for war yet run to “secure, undisclosed” locations, instill fears of even worse nightmares, and wonder if it’s not a convenient way to make us forget about all of the truly grevious ills in our society in time for the fall elections.
The signboard in front of my school, usually filled with car wash announcements and the current temperature, today reads simply “Never Forget, 9/11”. As I drove by it, the white lights of the words glimmering in a drape of pre-dawn darkness made for a mournful sight, and brought a tightness in my chest. But I wonder, exactly what is it that we should never forget? The event? The people that died? The effect on our collective psyche? Those are obvious. But there are other things even more important that we should always remember: that we are not the great benefactor of the world that we like to think we are; that all humans, American or not, deserve freedom and respect and civil rights; that the poorest of our citizens are rich to a vast majority of the world; that we know little about the global community; that we aren’t always given the straight scoop; that life is precious.
Yet, how can we forget what we have never truly known?
I hold no copyright on these thoughts. The fact that I share my fears, my frustrations, my lack of hope with so many others makes them a bit easier to live with. And I know they will abate, as 9/11 becomes more distant from today, until the next one occurs.
I will remember this: “The survivors will not be defined by the lives they have led until now but by the lives that they will lead from now on.” –Michael Berenbaum
And this: Let peace begin with me.