I don’t know why this year’s 9/11 anniversary feels more significant to me than last year’s, but it does. Maybe it’s the repetition of the number 11. Maybe it’s that 10 is a nice, round number, easy to absorb, but 11 signifies that time moves forward whether we wish it or not. Maybe it’s just that 11 is an odd number, and prime, and doesn’t sit as well as 10.
Whatever the reason, I need to take a moment and reflect.
Eleven years ago, I was in Atlanta and had no real direction in my life. I had a job, but it was just a paycheck. I didn’t really believe I could accomplish any of my personal dreams. When the attacks happened, I was at work and let me just say that listening to a bunch of architects and engineers dissect which part of the towers would fall next was nauseating. Once the towers fell, they said we could go home and I did, though I didn’t feel any safer as I lived in a high-rise. My European friends instantly inundated me with IMs asking if I was okay and I was sending emails to the few people I knew who lived in the NYC area to make sure they were okay.
I think back now to that day and remember feeling sick to my stomach and alone despite my friends. It was, and remains, a polarizing event. It was also transformational, the first act in the downward spiral of my life at the time. I wasn’t personally affected by the attacks. I knew no one who died or was injured. I had no connection to anyone and yet it scarred me, just like it did most people in this nation. I think on that day, no matter what anyone says now, we became fearful and suspicious as a nation, less inclined to stretch out the hand of diplomacy or friendship and more inclined to reach for a gun. And I’m not talking about the wars it triggered.
Despite that, I like to think I’ve learned not to take life for granted. at least in part because of 9/11. I’m generally an optimistic person, but also practical. The only real way to make sure something like 9/11 does not happen again is to know one another. To make relations between nations personal in a good way. The internet is a good start – open and free communication is vital to tolerance and freedom. Student exchanges work, exposing young people to other cultures before national hatred can become fully instilled. If you know your neighbor, if you understand him/her then you’re less likely to beat their heads in with a baseball bat, or shoot them, or burn effigies of them.
Sometimes I read the headlines and despair of seeing real peace in my lifetime. I think that it’s only a matter of time before hate attacks again and how much worse it will be with the increase in technology now available.
But then that optimism kicks in and reminds me that if a nobody like me can have friends all over the world, people I’ve met online who share their lives with me, then surely there’s still hope. Maybe it’s my nerdy roots to an extent too; the unity of Star Trek was always my favorite, far more than the chaos of the splintered Star Wars universe.
My heart lingers on hope and goes out to all the families across the world (because it wasn’t just US citizens who died that day) who lost their loved ones that day. Here’s hoping we find peace in our lifetime.