As we watched the 9/11 memorials play out this morning we, like most Americans, were flooded with a host of emotions. We remembered where we were when the planes struck the towers. We remembered the confusion as news flooded in documenting the events in New York, at the Pentagon and in Shanksville. We remembered the disbelief, the sadness, the anger. But most of all we remembered the stark contrast between our lives immediately before and immediately after the attacks.
It was just another day. We watched Matt and Katie hosting the Today Show; conducting another mundane interview with a nameless new author. We watched a much larger Al Roker, standing outside One Rockefeller Plaza, bantering with the crowd and sending us off to “see what’s happening in your neck of the woods.” It was just another day like any other day.
And then the planes hit…and everything changed.
We lost our innocence that day…we lost our invincibility. Perhaps for the first time since World War II Americans truly became part of the global community. War was no longer a news clip that we watched from the comfort of our living room. War was real. We could feel it, taste it, and smell it. War affected our lives as it never had before.
Our reaction was swift and it was bold. We brought the full force and might of the US Military to bear against those that deemed to do us harm. But in the process we altered the very essence of what it means to be an American. We made many, many costly mistakes along the way. Bin Laden could not have imagined the extent to which his plan would alter our lives. In the end Al Qaida was decimated and bin Laden was eliminated. It is somehow fitting that bin Laden used a small group of committed zealots to end our former way of life; and a small handful of committed patriots ended his.
Ten years have passed. 9/11 seems like a long time ago; but today it seems like yesterday. It is hard to believe that this horrific event and the ten years that followed are but a blip in the course of history.
We are still recovering. The question is can we ever fully recover? Can we ever become the country we use to be?
We believe that we are in many ways stronger because of 9/11. More reflective, more connected and more aware of who we are. But we have a long way to go. We have to correct the missteps caused by our understandable, emotional reaction to the horrors of that day. We have to restore our compassion and our respect for one another. And we have to treat the rest of the world as our equals not as our enemies. We have to adjust to a world that does not revolve around all things American. Complacency is as much our enemy as any terrorist cell.
We can return to the days when America and her strong economy ruled the world. The only thing stopping us…is us.