On that beautiful September morning, I was sitting in my office watching the news, just as I did every morning. I was almost five months pregnant with my baby girl, and she was kicking away, eagerly waiting for the food truck that ran through Scott’s Addition every day.
When the first plane hit the tower, I thought it was a horrible accident. I wasn’t able to hold that opinion for long. Maybe it was my hormones that were causing me to feel something that was not normal for me … frightened. I don’t get scared during emergencies. I react, address the emergency, and then fall apart when it’s over.
This was so very different. I wasn’t worried about my safety. I was worried about my kids. I understood that they would never know a world before 9/11 … the country I was so blessed to grow up in. Everything changed that day, for all of us.
I can’t remember what I expected our national response would be. How do we understand the gravity of this attack? How will we address it? What will we learn? Will we ever feel safe again?
But in the weeks that followed, amidst the horror, something magical happened.
As we came to grips with the images of a smoldering New York, we forgot to be selfish. We forgot to label each other. We forgot about the petty things that divided ” We the People of the United States.” Fire and EMS personnel from all over the country flocked to New York to help.
We forgot about our differences, because they didn’t matter. My father said the national unity after 9/11 was something not seen since Pearl Harbor. The most horrific tragedy had, once again, brought us all together. We were kind to each other.
We all wanted to help … needed to help. In my little corner of the world, the Swift Creek Elementary School PTA (I was preparing to serve as President then) sent over 200 care packages to troops in Afghanistan. The public sent so much money to cover shipping costs that we gave almost $2,000 to families of fallen soldiers after our last box was sent. Our “Operation American Necessities” gave the kids a meaningful chance to do something that mattered. I still have many letters from grateful troops and they are among my most treasured possessions.
The very act of selflessness made us feel supportive of each other. Do you remember?
I suppose my only question is …
… what happened?
Today, we are not tolerant of each other. We are not as kind to strangers. We don’t trust other Americans. We are judgmental. We are quick to label others … Democrats are all Socialists; Republicans are all just like Trump. Neither is true, and the most significant victim of our current attitude is … the truth.
Americans can handle anything except the murder of the truth in favor of a preferred opinion. It seems as if most people are so entrenched in a “camp” that they refuse to believe anything said or done by people in any other “camp.”
We will never forget 9/11. However, I fear we will never remember how to get back to that “We the People” unity, civility, trust and genuine care for each other.
But we must. So, I am asking everyone who reads this to do something in consideration of every victim of 9/11 … reach out with a random act of kindness.
Pay it forward … to honor the past.