Sunday, September 11, 2016

Thoughts on 9/11

On this somber anniversary I would like to break from my usual subject matter to offer my deepest sympathy to everyone effected by the horrific events 15 years ago.

Nearly all of us can vividly remember where we were on that day.  I was at work, driving a forklift, on a day just like many other days.  In the initial chaos of not knowing the scope of what was happening, my thoughts immediately turned to the safety of my family.  I remember the scattered reports coming in on a small transistor radio that felt as though the entire country was under attack.  

At the 5 year anniversary I visited ground zero.  At that time there was very little debris left and the site resembled just a massive hole.  But what I will remember more that anything else was a man standing at the fence, almost using it to bear his weight, staring off into the void.  I could feel the despair coming from him.  He had suffered a loss on that day that he was still consumed with.  To me, he symbolized the heartbreak that was being felt by thousands of people.  Though I never saw his face, I will never forget him.

These pictures were also taken on 9/11 in 2013.  My daughter had seen some remembrances in the morning and asked me to sit with her and explain why anyone would purposely hurt so many people.  She was 4.  I didn't have any good answers so I did the best I could.  It was comforting to see the firefighters paying tribute by walking on the coastline.  It reminded us that no matter what, there are still heroes watching out for us every day.   
Watching the memorials today I don't feel any closer to understanding the evil that occurred that day.  I do know that within those horrific events there are amazing stories of heroism.  The 40 crew and passengers of Flight 93 saved the lives of untold numbers of people.  Police and fire personnel rushed into buildings to save lives knowing they were likely about to lose their own.  Stranger helped stranger.

I'm discouraged to see how quickly we lost the temporary unity we discovered.  Now 15 years on we are more divided than ever. We fill the airways with hate and blame to further divide us.  This is terrifying because THIS is how any group becomes vulnerable.  We are weaker the more divided we become.

It's not the old president's fault, or the new one's fault, that's just an easy cop-out for everyone to help them rationalize.  It's OUR fault - all of us.  For allowing ourselves to become divided.  For making empathy into a sign of weakness.  For forgetting to love our neighbor regardless of who they are.

However we mark this day we need to remember that those firefighters charged up the stairs to save lives regardless of their orientation, or religion, or politics.  And so should we live as well.

Be well and God bless.  Tom

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