ten years gone

Fully knowing that they were only between 4 and 8 at the time, I asked a group of high school students where they were on 9/11.   The response was probably what you would expect.  They sort of remember it, but it didn’t really seem like it was a part of who they were. They didn’t comprehend the sadness, the fear the anxiety of the day and of the weeks following.  The anthrax scare that followed 9/11 didn’t even get on their radar.  To people who fully remember the events of the day, it is hard not to watch a remembrance video without tearing up.  It is difficult for your stomach to not sink a little when the vivid images of people jumping out of the towers roll across the screen.  In the weeks following 9/11 it was hard to step on an airplane and not profile someone (as guilty as I feel about this)…Airport security was always, “that way.” Osama Bin Laden was a household name.

I grieved a little that they did not share in the suffering of the day.  There is something about sharing in suffering that changes your perspective.  There is something that unites, that gives people a view of what’s really important.  Mostly I grieved because I realized that there is an entire generation that will never feel what I felt as I sat paralyzed in horror in front of my TV that day on September 11th.

I’ve learned that remembering is more than knowing facts.  Remembering involves feeling the pain of those whom we have a common connection with.  I’ve never felt people’s pain more clearly than I did on 9/11.  I’ve never felt more united with my fellow Americans than I did on that day.

The coming generation may never remember watching people in other countries burn American flags in the days following that horrific day.  Although some of the videos that the news was showing were shot months prior to September 11th, there was still some celebrating.  I remember how sickening that was.  I wasn’t angry but simply disgusted.  It was obvious that the up and coming generation didn’t get this because a few months ago when Osama Bin Laden was killed, we saw people celebrating in the streets.  Although there is a legitimate cause for relief in people’s mind that Bin Laden is no longer with us, it highlighted that we didn’t remember the suffering that plagued that day.  When we celebrated the death of Bin Laden we just created a cycle of vengeance.  To some Islamic extremist 9/11 was a taste of victory, for many who were hurt the death of Bin Laden was the same taste.  If we keep going down this same road, it makes me anxious to ask, what will the extremist celebrate next?  Then, what will we celebrate after that?

I learned that de-escalation of conflict is difficult when you have a people full of pain.  I also learned that genuine love conquers that pain.  I learned that loving my neighbor means protecting them.  I also learned my neighbor serves Allah.  I learned that cycles do exist and we can encourage them or discourage them.  I’ve learned that the world is smaller than I thought.  I learned that my kids who were born 8 and 10 years after 9/11 would somehow need to know the story.  They will somehow need to feel my pain.  They will somehow need to engage the world in a loving way as to not perpetuate the cycle of destruction in a world that is already devoid of love.  The will need to remember the suffering of a people who were gone before they arrived.

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