Oh my God. And I thought I was getting old when some kid said he didn't know that Paul McCartney was once in the Beatles.
Well, time marches on, but if anyone ever doubted that 9/11 was the seminal event of our lifetimes, just notice the extent to which it is not being forgotten. There are elements about the tragedy that fiercely demand that we hold onto it, that we do not let it go, that we sift out from the figurative ruins what the lessons of the event have become and use those lessons to improve conditions however we can.
On an emotional level, I know it is embedded in my psyche. I still get choked up in the middle of a sentence when a tourist asks me where I was on that day. I can still privately break out in tears when certain memories are evoked. Not that I dwell on it or feel stuck in it. But it's always there.
On an intellectual level, I take this with me, as grim as it is - that there exist, and I believe have always existed, certain beings on this planet who will use whatever pretext they can get their hands on to do harm to other people. It's not good enough to just come out and say, "What really turns me on is maiming and killing other people". You've got to have a cause if you want to do it in a really big way. Hitler and those who avidly followed him were stellar examples, as are the current crop.
So what can we do? For me, the lessons of 9/11 are threefold. First, you've got to find a cause of your own. Find an activity that is truly beneficial to mankind and do what you can to contribute to it. Second, speak out. Do not be afraid to make your opinions known. Write letters to the editor. Vote. Start a blog. Thoughts, when expressed, are like ripples in a pond. Never underestimate the effects of your ripples. And third...
On the fifth anniversary of 9/11 I visited Ground Zero late at night to pay my respects. Each year a certain area on Church Street was set aside for expressions of sympathy and support. I was drawn to one in particular, a large board with about fifty different messages on it which had been created by elementary school students in California. One of these messages was profound in its simplicity and affected me deeply.
"Be nice to people," was all it said.
To read other posts I've written about 9/11, please click on the labels below.