9/11 is personal to me, to my family. We lived in NYC on that day. A dear friend lost a sister in the attack. I watched the second tower come down from my office window. We were not in danger, but our neighbor worked at the World Trade Center and narrowly missed death that day. In fact, she only lived because she ignored the "all clear" and decided not to go back in after the first plane hit and they were told the other buildings were fine. Later, as she fled, she had to dodge a tire flying through the air--part of the airplane's landing gear.
I regret that, like many other things, 9/11 has become politicized. It wasn't like that in the days immediately after. The horror of 9/11 brought people together in a remarkable way. New York City was a different place for several months. People made eye contact on the subway. They gave up seats to the elderly or pregnant women. They were courteous and kind.
And instead of being from Brooklyn or Queens or Manhattan, instead of being Catholic or Jewish or atheists, instead of being white or black or hispanic, instead of being Puerto Ricans, Dominicans--we were all Americans.
American flags proliferated over night. They were every where. Apartments. Fire escapes. Car antennae. It was not nationalism or superiority. It was genuine love and unity. It was an impulse to link arms as we realized that what we took for granted might not be so unassailable.
I thank God that we have not had any more attacks on that scale since then and I honor the brave people who have stood between us and danger. Surely our relative peace has not happened simply because no one has tried to hurt us again.
I think of those brave firefighters and police officers who ran towards the hell that everyone else was running away from. Jesus said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). I mourn their loss and the loss of innocent life in those towers.
But I also mourn the loss of unity, the loss of togetherness that swelled up during those days during the aftermath. I mourn the quick, and entrenched return to our own tribes and ideological camps.It's not that I think we should all agree with each other on every thing. I don't, and that's not possible. It's not that I think that principled disagreement is never right. I think it's often important.
But I do wish we could be less strident, less hyper-politicized. The people who died that day died because they were Americans. They didn't die as Democrats or Republicans. The firefighters who gave their lives while trying to rescue people were trying to rescue other Americans, other humans. Their brothers and sisters.
I wish we could remember that.
One of the most amazing things I've ever seen happened on that day. It's something that has not been widely remembered in the collective consciousness and I think it's worth a look.
All the members of the U.S. Congress--senators, congressmen and women came out on the steps of the capitol and held a press conference. They said the things you would expect and had a moment of silence. But watch a few minutes into it. Something really remarkable happens then--something that provides a wonderful metaphor for the way forward.