We’ve become desensitized to tragedy as a result of the constant barrage of current events, have become a society who for the most part, is fazed by nothing. On September 11, 2001, all of that changed. In an instant. A day in time when the earth stood still. We all remember where we were that day. We all scrambled to turn on TV’s. We all remember the shock, the numbness of watching planes hitting the World Trade Center, our World Trade Center, and watching them collapse. Over and over, and over. It was called “Ground Zero” and America had hit rock bottom.
We knew this was different. We knew we would remember this one. This was big. This one event so horribly cut through our mental clutter, and we all knew it. The U.S had been attacked on our turf. Those bastards. The numbness, the shock, the outrage, the confusion, the search for answers, the thirst for revenge. Our landscape had changed forever. Where mighty pillars once stood towering upward, were huge gaping holes in the sky. As if the Grand Canyon went away. This made us stop, this made us pray.That day, family bickering in the U.S. was put on hold. No special effects movie, this was real, no rewind or delete at the push of a button.
Things that seemed hugely important became totally insignificant in a flash. A country who only the day before, was so preoccupied in the fast lane, had suddenly come to a screeching halt. We stopped flying, I still have my cancelled ticket to Portland for September 12. Wall Street stopped, we held onto our money, just in case. We stayed home, only bought the essentials, we were afraid. When you looked up, there were no jets and no network of crisscrossed smoke trails. Just sky, clouds and silence.
We were all in the uncomfortable position of becoming potential casualties in a war in which we have little role to play. As rescue workers dug through mountains of twisted steel, concrete and glass, we gave blood. We sent supplies and grasped at the overwhelming task of thinking what we could do to help. Terrorism is not about bombs. It’s purpose is to invoke fear, disrupt our psyche, to create the thought of terror, always. The attack didn’t break the American spirit as intended. It did just the opposite, it rekindled it. As our nation went to war, we stood up and dusted ourselves off. We went back to basics. We became spiritual again.
Family was our primary focus. We talked to neighbors, we went to churches, synagogues, places of worship and waved to strangers, just because. We were no longer white, black, Christian, Jewish, Asian, Hispanic or Muslim. We weren’t rich or poor, Democrats, or Republicans. We were Americans. In a country with fallen heroes, we had new appreciation for firefighters, police, emergency workers and our neighbors.
Remember the Grinch who stole Christmas? One of my favorites. The Grinch took every present from the Who’s in Whoville, everything they owned, to the last crumb of bread, to break their Christmas spirit. How did the Who’s react? They gathered in a circle, held hands and sang, “just the same.” And the Grinchs’ response? “They did it without ribbons. They did it without tags. They did it without packages, boxes or bags!” So here we are, twelve years later with an anniversary to commemorate the fallen.
I’ll leave you with this. The heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and thanks to this, we manage to endure the burdens of the past. In our driving quest for political favorites, career success, beating our competition, and rising to the top, let’s make sure that we don’t plow ahead with such fierce determination, that we don’t stop to smell the roses, to tell our families that we love them, to appreciate that we live in a great country in spite of our differences, with heroes alive and dead and just for the heck of it, wave to a stranger, just because.