Our lives changed September 11, 2001. The lives of those of us who were alive that awful day remember this vividly because the world changed for us personally. Our lives as a nation changed, too.
I was working at my desk when the first breaking news about a plane hitting one of the Twin Towers hit the news wires. I pulled up a news feed and watched those first videos, and listened as journalists scrambled to find out what was happening.
We had no idea during that initial confusion what impact the events of the day would have on all of us.
It seems crazy now, but some of the earliest speculation was that the plane hitting the tower had been an accident. We soon learned it was far more sinister than that.
Like many other people, my eyes were glued to my computer or television screen for much of the rest of that day. As the story of what really happened began to unfold it seemed unreal.
At the same time, the images were impossible to forget.
It was the kind of story that rips your guts out.
It was a physical pain to hear about the people who were trapped and knew they were facing certain horrible death, but spent their last minutes in this world sending messages of love to their family and friends.
It gave new meaning to words like honor, courage, and selflessness, as we heard about the men and women who gave their own lives trying to save others. For most people, their natural instinct is to run away from danger, but that day we learned about those who ran toward danger in order to help others.
We soon learned that the attacks on 9/11 were acts of terrorism. This shook us to our foundations because we were not conditioned to expect attacks like this on American soil.
There are times when I wonder how much we really learned from that day. Have we changed our outlook, or have we returned to complacency?
One thing I am certain about is the way I choose to remember the day. The forces of good and evil were on display. Those who perpetrated the heinous attacks represented the worst, the most vile and despicable side of human nature.
I prefer to remember the other lesson of 9/11. The lesson that even in the most terrifying and seemingly hopeless situations, there are heroes among us who will rise above whatever confronts them and do what they can to help others, even at the risk of making the ultimate sacrifice.
As we reflect on the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, I will remember the men and women who died that day in those cowardly attacks, but I’ll also remember those who showed us the finer side of human nature. It is their example that gives me hope.
If the selfless individuals who provided aid and comfort to others could do so under such horrific circumstances, why do some of us find it so hard to show compassion to others today?
The heroes of 9/11 didn’t stop to ask the people they helped what political party they belonged to. They didn’t consider their religious affiliation or cultural background. They didn’t stop to think about the color of their skin. The heroes of 9/11 reached out and helped other human beings on the most elemental level.
Wouldn’t it be a fitting tribute to those brave men and women to follow their example and treat others the way we would hope to be treated?
The heroes of 9/11 showed compassion for others based on our shared humanity. We would do well to learn from them, rather than following those who seek to divide us.
The events of 9/11 shocked us because terrorists attacked Americans and American values on our own soil. The forces of evil among us who spew hate and divisiveness aren’t much different than those terrorists. Recognizing that is another way we can honor the heroes and those who lost their lives on 9/11.