Today marks the 18th anniversary of 9-11, a day that is forever seared into the consciousness of America and one that we should not and will not soon forget.
Today we will hear speeches, hear the names of the 2,974 people who lost their lives in these senseless attacks and we will see countless posts on social media feeds urging us, as Americans, to “never forget.”
While we rightly honor those who perished on that fateful morning, while we honor the heroes who answered the call and saved countless lives at the risk of their own. While we collectively mourn the tragedy that was the 9-11 attacks, I believe it is important to ask the question, have we forgotten?
Eighteen years ago through a series of events, I was able to be in New York City just days after the attacks. I stood just feet from the rubble of what was once the World Trade Center. I met and cried with first responders, with New York’s finest as they recounted brothers & sisters they had lost. I had the immense privilege of raising money for families who lost loved ones. The experience was overwhelming and surreal to say the least.
During those days, I experienced a softness within those I met, I felt a palatable love that is not often equated with New Yorkers and among others across our nation. There was a common sense of belonging, compassion and empathy that flowed through the veins of all of us with each of us doing what we could to help as we felt a yearning to be united.
I remember back to that time, where for awhile, America was a kinder, gentler place. Hugs were indeed free, we were not defined by labels such as conservative or liberal, gay or straight, black or white, Christian or Muslim, believer or non-believer but simply as human, as Americans, as one nation.
Yet here we are, not even two decades past and I believe we have forgotten. Where has our kindness and compassion gone?
I believe we have forgotten that despite our race, political leanings, sexual orientation, religion, origins or ideas, we are not all that different. We, as our Founding Fathers so accurately articulated, are all “created equal” as endowed by our Creator. We share a common humanity, a common bond as EQUALS.
I see evidence of this forgetfulness in my Twitter and other social media feeds where vitriol and name calling are common place. I see unkindness run amok as we drive, with middle fingers and road rage so common we hardly notice. I see our forgetfulness with what seems like a daily shooting that has become so run of the mill it hardly makes news coverage. I see our forgetfulness in the lack of kindness and courtesy shown in daily interactions with strangers. I see evidence of our forgetfulness in research that shows our collective anxiety, loneliness and depression are at an all time high.
We have forgotten the strength of our common bond, our common humanity, our love for our fellow man, that was so strong eighteen years ago. And we have allowed it to erode to a place that is no longer acceptable and is certainly behavior that we would not tolerate in our children; yet we exhibit continually . . . and in a word, it is sad.
So it is on this day, an anniversary of the tragic, I ask us all to remember, to embrace, to come back to a place of civility, of respect, of empathy, compassion and love. May we journey back to seeing our fellow men and women as what we are, equally human; flawed and imperfect but beautiful, as we have one common creator.
May we never forget what brings us together – shared humanity. May we never forget those whose lost their lives and the heroes that showed up that day and may we never forget that kindness, love and compassion are truly American virtues.