I woke up this morning with the heaviness that this day, I think, brings to many Americans who were alive to witness the events of September 11, 2001. I can vividly recall walking quietly to work and arriving just in time to hear the excited talk about a plane crash in New York City. Moments later, when it became apparent that a second aircraft had been intentionally flown into the World Trade Center towers, I felt a deep sickness in my stomach. When a third jet crashed into the Pentagon and fourth ended up in a field in Pennsylvania, I sat dazed. Who could have imagined such a series of tragic events happening in the United States?
Later, as the pictures of the planes commingled with people falling from the towers and played over and over on the television and in our minds, my wife and I sat together and wondered what it would mean--had the USA lost its cloak of invincibility? Had we entered a new age where fear would be the mantra by which we lived? We had no way of knowing, but we were afraid.
Miraculously, something else came out of it. Complete strangers were talking to each other about what they had witnessed. How rescuers had tried their damned best to save lives. How ash covered survivors had walked out of the fog of destruction and into the arms of complete strangers. For a brief period of time, we were brought together. In that period of time, I felt renewed hope for our nation. That this horrible event could bring the promise of democracy to a new level of civility and appreciation for each other and our nation.
As surely as innocence is lost, maturation stepped in and helped us to find ourselves. The understanding that things change and we must adapt to them became front and center in our collective consciousness. Sadly, as in most things, we could not agree in which direction to adapt. But that is for another time.
For today, I will choose to remember those men, women, and children of all colors and creeds who perished, and those who acted heroically to respond as best as they could. I hope we all will also remember the feeling of being a part of something far bigger than ourselves. A time when our nation wrapped itself not in our flag, but in the cloak of our common humanity.