19 years after the 9/11 attacks, it is clear we still have a long way to go to reach the vision of “united we stand.” May this day be a chance for us to reflect upon our own responsibility and look beyond the veneer of self-autonomy and embrace our great privilege to collectively sacrifice for the common good.
9/11 2020: 19 Years Later – What Have We Actually Learned?
I’ll never forget how the United States came together after 9/11. Looking back, it seemed like such an innocent time. Airport security was a joke and few could have imagined that terrorists would hijack commercial airliners in order to inflict death and fear.
After the attacks, America rallied together in a way unlike I had ever seen before and perhaps will ever see again. Political divisions fell and people joined hands in unity. It was a beautiful moment.
But it was a squandered moment. Instead of using that national unity to embark upon a great program to rebuild our own nation, we sunk trillions in trying (and largely failing) to build other nations. We squandered not just roads and bridges, but a new national ethos of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that could have been the fruit of a new shared vision that refused to succumb to fear and indifference.
Nope, we succumbed to fear and ended up regretting it 4,424 troops and nearly 200,000 civilians later.
Then along came a novel coronavirus.
How would we respond this time? We suddenly were presented with another chance to join together as a nation and practice the virtues we preached.
This time around, we didn’t even have that brief period of unity. Instead, division reigned from the very first hour. The result was not just lives lost, but a further drawing of battle lines that pitted neighbor against neighbor. Now we fight over masks while the nation burns.
Leadership matters. But let us never use poor leadership as an excuse to abdicate our solemn duty to care for those around us and seek to wrestle and understand, with empathy, the plight of others.
It has been a very tough year for me and yet I still have my family, my health, a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food in my stomach. In other words, I have nothing to complain about. Others are not so fortunate.
Instead of directing so much time and energy into the edifices of power that ultimately disappoint, let us not neglect the concept of subsidiarity and in that, our great role to heal and to serve those in the space around us.
If we want to honor the legacy of 9/11, we can start by honoring those around us. Honor them with your time, with your concern, and with your devotion. Such practice honors the dignity of every person and leads us toward that goal of united we stand that should be a far more powerful force than any particular leader.
I have offered 9/11 reflection posts several times over the years.