I began several posts I planned to publish last Saturday, the 20th anniversary of 9/11. But I couldn’t quite settle on what to say. It was confusing to consider how I’d feel. How had twenty years passed already? Some disbelief crept in, but it wasn’t the same disbelief we had 20 years ago when we were struggling to fathom what was happening. Anger was a definite response that came as we learned more. Perhaps we don’t have as much raw anger as we once did about this specific event, but anger has taken root. Then, we had a common enemy for our anger. Now, we spew it on whomever we think is impacting our freedom, including each other. We are much more divided now. Oh, we’ll still help one another when needed, as long as there is some level of convenience and comfort. Each of us have different thresholds, but I think our willingness to push our comfort zones and help people different from us, people we don’t know, has eroded. Listen to the way we speak about one another. Listen to how we generalize and assume and rationalize our claims and opinions.
I’d like to think it’s not all a result of the terrorist attacks. I don’t want to give terrorists that kind of credit. Honestly, I don’t think it is. But we pass the blame when it comes to our anger and lack of unity currently rampant in our nation. Whether we blame the government, outside influences, or specific groups of people who behave in ways we disapprove, we want to let ourselves off the hook.
We need to be honest. After all, our communities and country are made up of each of us. We get to make a difference. We point to movements and government and big businesses, etc., and spew the blame. And they are indeed responsible for some horrible messes. But any group or entity we spew blame toward is a group of individuals, and they are not clones. They choose, sometimes horribly and sometimes well. Just like the rest of us. Group-think often goes wrong, not just outwardly but inwardly. And every single one of us can buy into some form of it.
My last two trips to New York City, I visited the 9/11 Memorial. My first visit, I walked through the museum. This twisted piece of metal wrecked me. As I understand, it’s where the nose of a plane hit the building. What once was a stable, secure, reliable structure that people trusted without thinking about it had been turned into what looked like a wadded up giant pipe cleaner or straw. It has stuck in my mind ever since and not just in the context of an act of terrorism.
There are so many beams of steel in our lives that we trust without much notice or depend on without much test. Could they become mangled? Much of what we claim can—even if we don’t want to entertain that possibility. Sometimes the damage comes from outside; other times, it’s our own lack of attentiveness and care.
We pause to remember. We also pause to look forward. Let’s be willing to grow. Let’s consider how well we’re living alongside others, how we speak about others, and how we think about others. Let’s consider where we might be making assumptions that will not stand up under pressure. Let’s consider how we can respectfully unite with others on a daily basis instead of letting the daily pressures divide us. Why wait until there is a tragedy? Every day has challenges to face and celebrations to enjoy.