Today is a revered day in American history. Today is a day of remembrance. A day of sadness, grief and loss. September 11, 2001 began with an immeasurable tragedy. I still vividly remember waking up in my dorm room at Florida State University and watching NBC report on a plane flying into the first tower. There was confusion as everyone tried to figure out what had gone wrong. I was watching live when the second plane struck it’s target, and everyone knew it was more than an accident. The horror and disbelief remain with me to this day.
As terrible as September 11, 2001 was, it was also a day which gave way to immense strength and resilience for America. In the days after 9/11, Americans united as one people. Through pain, we came together. In the shock of the reality of what occurred in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C., we embraced each other. It did not matter what our brothers and sisters who stood next to us looked like. Their race did not matter. Where they came from did not either. All that mattered was loving and supporting one another. Perfect strangers embracing to heal what we could not understand.
Today, on this significant day nineteen years later, my hope for America is that we can find unity once more.
Turn on any news channel and you will see gloom and doom on display. And today’s problems have nothing to do with the devastation that occurred nearly two decades ago. The country feels so divided right now. I know this is not everyone’s experience, but for so many the negativity is palpable. The world on display is harsh. It’s been painted black or white, no more gray. The “with us or against us” mentality attempts to permeate into every area of life. What does that mean for us moving forward? How do we traverse the divide?
The only way forward is together. In accepting and honoring each other’s differences, we say it is okay to be ourselves. People are uniquely different, and yet our similarities are undeniable. As humans we thrive on community. We need connection. Our very DNA is programmed for attachment. These bonds have helped us to survive for thousands of years. We need each other to live well and thrive.
So how do we come back together? By listening to one another. By hearing each other. By not negating or eschewing differing points of view. We must understand that everyone has their own unique perspective molded from their experiences in this world. We must understand that everyone is entitled to their view. A different outlook from your own is not wrong, it’s just different.
To unite we must move past righteousness.
We must be willing to hear others stories and believe them. We must be willing to look at our own opinions and understand that opinion is not fact. We must be willing to share our own story without fear of persecution. We must accept others as they are. Love each other just as we come. We are all made in the likeness of our Creator. We look, feel and act differently from one another, but we are more alike than our differences purport.
So on this day, as we honor the lives lost, the everyday citizens who found themselves heros in the aftermath of the terror, and the survivors who have forged ahead despite the depths of pain they experienced, I pray we can also remember how much strength comes with unity. In honoring and loving our neighbor, supporting strangers and caring for those we share this world with, we may forge relationships worth fighting for.