Unity In The Face Of Tragedy

How 9/11 changed my perspective.

When the attack on the Pentagon and the attack on the World Trade Center happened, I was 11 years old, in 6th grade, and I remember I was transitioning between Social Studies and Math class.

When I got to my math class, the teacher had the TV on. This was odd, and this is when I first began to grasp the seriousness of what I’d heard was happening in the biggest city in America.

I remember looking up, and the first thing I saw was a plane rested against the Pentagon. Smoke was barreling from it.

Admittedly, I was an ignorant child. I didn’t know what the Pentagon was and had only seen the “twin towers” on TV, so the World Trade Center that I was hearing about was also not registering any familiarity with me.

Judging by the expression on her face and the tone in her voice, I knew my teacher was concerned, and I thought that maybe I should be, too.

The political landscape in America was a bit rocky (when isn’t it?), and I remember some division among people.

But when 9/11 happened, everything stopped.

Divisions became unity, and people in quarrels immediately settled differences or agreed to disagree.

This was bigger than us.

A few moments of time is all it took on September 11, 2001 and we were back to loving our brothers and sisters.

We were back to working our asses off for each other.

The question, “are you okay?” made its way through the country. And it really required everyone to ask themselves if they were indeed okay.

Within seconds, hundreds of lives were lost.

First responders were running into a building, with no regard for their own safety, while everyone else was trying to run away from the dust and the aftermath.

The days, weeks, months, and years after this event would be spent sifting through the rubble of broken buildings and broken hearts.

When I was 22 years of age, I finally began to grasp the result behind this attack. It only took 11 years.

Why were we forced to endure the suffering? What was it all for? Why did innocent people have to lose their lives as a result of a stupid attack by stupid people?

The truth is, you can torture yourself with those questions all day long, but you won’t find a reasonable answer. You can’t reasonable explain chaos. It exists, it operates, but that’s all it does.

So, trying to find a “reason” for everything was difficult, at first.

Then I watched this Jon Stewart video.

I came to a lot of realization through watching the video.

I began to understand tragedy better. I began to shape my thoughts around the result of tragedy.

And there’s something I still find remarkable about tragedy today.

We, as a people, are strong. We’re resilient. We’ll persevere and prevail. But we won’t do it alone. We’ll do it together.

9/11 helped me grasp the idea that people are inherently good.

Given an opportunity, we will show up. We’ll show up to support, we’ll show up to love, and we’ll show up to do our jobs.

The face of loss is temporary. But the quality of resilience endures and waits for opportunity.

A terrorist attack made our nation stronger, even if only for days or weeks, we were stronger.

When 9/11 rolls around every year, I take my moments throughout the day.

I take moments to think of first-responders, and how they aren’t appreciated enough.

I take my moments to think of the families who lost loved ones on that day.

I take my moments to think of how thankful I am for my safety and the safety of my family, and how I never want to take that for granted, though I do at times.

And then I take my moments to think about the unity of our nation.

I think about whether or not we’re doing a good enough job. Or whether or not we’re there to support each other enough.

I think about whether or not we’re willing to stand together, like we once did.

I think about whether or not we’re picking up the pieces and building bridges.

On 9/11, I think about why people died. I think about the wasted years ahead of promising lives that were cut short.

I honestly wonder if we’re stopping to think about these things enough.

I ponder these things, not out of judgment against anyone, but instead with concern and care.

Because when it’s all said and done, do the arguments matter? Does the fighting matter? Is the pride worth it? Or is all this bickering just drawing an unnecessary boundary?

9/11 could be used as a vehicle to unity. On the other hand, we could watch it come and go each year, pay our respects, and be done with it for another 364.5 days.

It’s a perfect picture of what our nation could truly stand for. It hurts to see us take it for granted.

What cannot be denied, is that our people stood together on a day when all seemed lost.

Despair, tragedy, depression, PTSD — you name it — these were all side effects of one day.

Hope, integrity, love, peace, and unrelenting support for one another was gained in the same day from the same source.

Light seeks to diminish the darkness. Darkness can’t win.

More good things can be found in the face of that reality. We have to play a part in it, though. We have to put down the swords.

We cannot let the sacrifice and the tragedies go unnoticed.

The survivors, the ones left behind — us. We have an opportunity to give a voice to the situation.

I’m not talking about manipulating it, or putting an agenda on it, or turning it into political banter.

I’m talking about unity. I’m talking about reaching out a hand.

If we can’t reach out a hand while remembering why we stood together on days like 9/11, when will we?

I think sometimes we forget that we’re all vulnerable people in the end. We forget that the person on the other side of the fence bleeds too.

So let’s stop making each other bleed. Let’s walk together. Let’s heal together. And let’s hope together.

Husband. Father. Friend. Social Worker. Life is messy. Come along for the ride!

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