Ten years ago yesterday we watched, aghast, as unthinkable acts of hatred altered the American landscape. Skylines were altered. Stories were etched into the souls of thousands upon thousands of people. Some of our brothers and sisters didn’t see another sunrise. We were changed.
Like I’m sure it did for everyone else who was old enough to remember it, watching the footage and seeing the pictures of 9/11 brought me back to that day. But even more than that, it brought me back to the day after. And the day after that.
The grieving was sharp, piercing, but there was something else, too.
In the days after, we also discovered a newfound (old-and-re-found?) camaraderie. There was a… connectedness that happened.
We were deeply saddened by our loss — and the events of that day surely affected some of us more than others in terrible, tragic ways — but in many senses the hole that was left was a collective one. It was something that happened to all of us, and the sadness didn’t stick to Manhattan, but somehow snuck its way behind all our eyes. It belonged to all of us. And as the smoke began to clear, we found ourselves more unified. We remembered our need for each other. The deep sadness somehow melted a bit of the ice of our usual pretense. Though the means were monstrous, it softened us in some very good ways.
And then, we forgot.
We lost our sympathy and neglected the importance of our relationships. We forgot how much everything we do impacts everyone else.
I am glad that we took a day, yesterday, to remember. But I find myself wondering if we will forget again, all too quickly. If we will rush back into our petty rivalries and political squabbling. If pundits and producers will again clog newsfeeds with pointless nonsense. If, as quickly as we remembered, we will forget those things that really make America great.
I hope we don’t. That would be the real disgrace to yesterday.
P.S. This post was inspired by an article by Tom Brokaw. Read it here.