These past few days I’ve been re-watching the attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. While I’m not often speechless, on the 12th anniversary of 9/11, I was. My heart was heavy watching clips of the planes crashing into the towers and the sound of people crying out.
The people lost that day can’t be brought back. The images we saw and continue to revisit can’t be unseen. So, why do we commemorate such a horrible moment in the United States’ history? Is going back to the events of 9/11 just giving power to the terrorists who attacked our country and unearthing painful emotions and memories better left in the past?
My answer is no. We can move forward from this, and we have. Here’s how:
Even with the hurt we went through, our country bounced back. We were resilient; we realized we can come back from something so terrible and be even stronger.
All over the country at 8:46 a.m. and 9:03 a.m., there were moments of silence. American flags were placed in large numbers to honor those who were killed in the attacks. In those moments we are also asking for world peace, so that acts of terrorism might cease.
But the fear that was placed inside us that day didn’t stop us from carrying out our daily lives. Americans reacted to the events of 9/11 with a patriotism that fueled us to fight for justice in the days, months and years after the attacks. Planes continued to fly; people went back to work. As Americans, we did not let the choices of misguided individuals affect how we lived our lives.
Tuesday’s Children, a non-profit organization in Manhasset, N.Y. took a step to help those directly affected. According to its website,it was “founded to promote long-term healing in all those directly impacted by the events of September 11, 2001.”
Not only is this organization directly helping those still in need, but it is paying it forward by “serving and supporting communities affected by acts of terror worldwide.” We can learn from the people of Tuesday’s Children because they want to not only see the temporary good, but look to the future and see healing.
9/11 showed us a sliver of the good humans can do. The flight attendants were calm; the first responders didn’t think twice about what needed to be done. Strangers jumped at the opportunity to help save a life.
We saw this again during the bombing at the Boston Marathon earlier this year. Some runners ran from the finish line right back to the site of the bombing or straight to the hospital to donate blood. And the best part is, I’m sure none of them second-guessed their decision. They saw the need and they ran, literally.
Through the people who first responded to these attacks, we can see that good character that embodies the American spirit. The people of New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C. did not need to be forced to help. They aided in the ways they knew how.
It’s heartbreaking to me that it often takes a horrific event to make people realize how fragile life is. As horrible as it sounds, did we need a tragedy to happen for us to see each day as a blessing? Maybe.
Today, not only do I pause to think and pray for those who died, but I pray that someday it won’t take an event like 9/11 to convince Americans to focus on what matters; to be thankful and to love one another, “united” to others; even strangers.
Caroline Rode can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.