My plan for today was to avoid 9/11 memorials and television specials. So far, so good… except that I spent a chunk of time yesterday reading the New York Times‘ special “The Reckoning.” I listened to survivors’ stories on NPR’s Thursday airing of “Morning Edition.” And try as I might, I still looked at images of the second plane moving toward the second tower, the ashen covered NYC, and worst of all, the images of those who decided to jump from top floors of the towers. I wanted to not look at these images, not hear these stories, not relive 9/11 because I still remember so vividly. How can anyone who lived through that day forget?
I think we live in a sadder world today. I never supported the war in Afghanistan or Iraq. I never believed that we can fix violence with violence. I never wanted more lives lost because of what happened 10 years ago today. I believe that in the wake of the horror, there was an immense potential for hope. As our nation united together and worked to show the world that we would be strong, I believed we should also reach out to our would-be enemies. We learn about them, they learn about us. I wanted our nation to work against hate, to create understanding. But instead we now live in a more dangerous world, a world filled with more hate: people of different religious beliefs hate each other, people hate people based on their language, based on the places they are from, leaders with different world visions hate each other, and Americans… we who rejoiced in uniting the days after 9/11… we hate each other.
I visited Ground Zero in December 2005. The ground was a still a gaping hole. Buildings that had once been the neighbors to the Towers still stood shrouded in black tarp. We visited Trinity Church. We still felt the pain of the hole left behind by such loss. Four years later and the NYC and Ground Zero I watched for days after 9/11 still felt fresh. Now they are building new towers, museums and memorials are opening, several movies have been made, and we are in two painful, long wars. We are moving forward. In a day of looking back, perhaps we can also learn from the successes and failures of our responses to that horrific event. My hope is that we remember those who fell not with hatred and war, but with peace.