Fear Disbelief Confusion
Hopelessness Anger Suspicion Love
One day, a few hours, can produce a vast array of emotions. September 11, 2001 did just that.
In the Moment
We all remember that morning; we remember where we were, who with, what we were doing, how we heard about what happened. The feelings that followed varied. Everyone internalized the terror attack in their own mind, struggling to grasp the unspeakable nightmare that was unfolding in real time. On this day, every American was hit with the reality that terrorism, that far off notion that we’d read about or seen on TV, was happening in our own back yard. The word “terror” itself has now been transformed and has significance to us all.
I was in high school and home that morning, watching television when suddenly there was breaking news that one of the world trade centers had been struck by a plane. Speculation began, but the news networks didn’t know any more about what had happened than any lay person. It wasn’t until the second plane hit that our stomachs sank, and the reality set in that our beloved nation was under attack. I was a scared teenager, alone, confused and terrified. I called my mother at work but vaguely remember our conversation as I was engrossed in watching the news coverage. Of all the chaos televised, the one image that impacted me most was watching people jump from the windows of the towers, desperate to escape the smoke and flames. I will never be able to get that scene out of my mind and it tears my heart to bits even thinking about it now. I remember feeling frustration waiting for a grown up to explain what I was watching on the screen. I couldn’t fathom the impact that day would have on our country or my own life years down the road.
A Nation Mourns
I cannot recall a time when our nation has been more united and divided than the months following September 11th. In one corner, we joined in mutual mourning of the victims, first responders and volunteers who perished and held in our hearts their families and loved ones. In the other corner, fear and misinformation fueled hatred and suspicion of innocent Muslim Americans. When tragedy strikes, we want someone to blame, we NEED someone to blame. But that is not the solution. It never is. I believe we have come a long way from the initial shock and subsequent unfounded discrimination of Muslims Americans. That being said, there is still so much work to be done to educate others, change hearts and mend the wounds.
Close to Home
As a military spouse and social worker counseling veterans, the events of September 11th impact me personally. My husband and friends have deployed numerous times to fight the war that followed and is continuing to this day. I’ve watched loved ones die and others come home wounded physically and mentally. I’ve made an effort to do my part as a social worker to counsel Veterans and assist them in processing their experiences and live healthy, productive lives. Let’s be honest though; they will never be the same people they were before they went to Iraq and/or Afghanistan. I have no doubt that I’ll be counseling servicemembers returning from Syria in the future as well, but that is a whole new fight. I can only hope I’ve done something to ease their transition into life after war, to live fulfilling lives. I don’t care what the media says, we are still at war. Every day, brave men and women are sacrificing their lives, their families, the comfort of safety and security, so that we may live contented lives. The disconcerting aspect is that we are really fighting a war on ideology. Can we win such a battle? Is it possible to change the mindset of a people who’s culture we cannot even begin to comprehend? Who have been living this way for hundreds of years?
Can you believe that high school freshman will be reading about September 11th in their history books? September 11th is now observed as Patriot Day. Our country was shaken to its core, and rose again. We are a nation of immigrants, a nation made beautiful by diversity. Embracing our differences shapes our unique culture and landscape. I love my country and I have faith in humanity that we will come together in mutual understanding to live peacefully one day. At least that is the future I envision and hope to have for my children. Until that happens, I will continue to do what I am able to shape a peaceful and understanding world for future generations.
What You Can Do
If this day stirs up feelings of despair or helplessness, it doesn’t have to. Rather, we can transform loss into hope and honor victims while celebrating the resiliency of our nation. Everyone can make a difference in the lives of others. The links below can show you how to observe this day.