14 years. And yet, the time before September 11th, and the time after seem both very immediate and also eternal, as if it’s always been this way. I still vividly remember listening to the radio while getting ready for school and hearing the confused, panicked voices of the DJs, and thinking that it was surely some very weird sort of joke, like Orson Wells’ “War of the Worlds” back in the 1940’s. But no, it was no joke, though the reality of it took a long time to sink in.
14 years and everyone I talk to about September 11th still has the same strong urge I have to discuss what they were doing when they first heard, where they were, their initial reactions. As if we still need to come to terms with the shocking reality of how much we all changed that day, in that one moment. Before, and forever after.
And yet, despite the bone deep sadness and fear that that day instilled in us, it also roused a sense of pride in our country that I’m not sure all of us consciously recognized beforehand. My generation especially, a child of baby boomers who had never known personally an invasive war, tended to take our country a bit for granted. But when that first plane hit the Trade Towers… well, to say it was a wake up call is an understatement.
So while September 11th is a day of remembered sadness, it’s also a day of revived pride. I remember suddenly seeing American flag pins everywhere, and thinking thereafter that a suit looked naked without one. Or watching the members of the house and senate sing “God Bless America”, Republicans and Democrats both joining voices, hands, and truly, we were not divided for a moment: we were simply, fiercely, American.
14 years. And now, though still with sadness and levity, this day has become a day of service, a day to “pay it forward”. It doesn’t have to be something big… at least not to you. Because a kind action towards someone else, no matter how big or small, can mean the world towards that person. And kindness, service, pride and cooperation… no act of violence can take away the fact that Americans are all of those things and more.