September 11, 2001. As I rushed to catch the bus to campus, I noticed a strange news story on my computer – a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. The photo accompanying the story made the crash seem small, so besides the uniqueness of the event, I thought little of it. By the time I got to school, it was obvious something was up. Imagine hundreds and hundreds of students crowding around monitors outside of major buildings in the largest university in America. By the end of my first class, I’d heard all the news and saw classmates hurriedly call to loved ones and saw one friend rush out of the classroom in tears.
That day marked the beginning of a new era. My birth year (1981) is often included (and often not) in the almost-arbitrary moniker, “Generation X.” Writers and other media members have grappled to find a term to define the generation following it, mostly to cash in on the previous name’s popularity. I’m not sure what it would best be called, but as the years pass by, it seems more and more assuredly to be defined by that one morning and all the events that transpired because of it. The U.S. (and much of the world’s) economy has been in recession since that time. We live in an age where the average American is more globally aware and when it seems everything has some international connection. Elementary-aged children have never lived in a time when we weren’t at war. Times have changed.
And so, the events of May 1, when Osama Bin Laden was found and killed by U.S. Navy Seals, is a major milestone in this new age. The man who I think most of us thought would never be caught was brought to harsh justice. Thousands of lives were on his head, and he paid what feels like an almost-too-easy price for his horrid actions.
Yesterday and today, spontaneous celebrations have occurred throughout the U.S., from Ground Zero to baseball stadiums. And one doesn’t have to go a stone’s throw – literally or via media – to hear laughter, smack, and howls of vengeful mocking directed at Bin Laden, terrorist groups, or even entire people groups and nations.
Some will say that we should act that way – after all, many of us remember the celebrations that occurred in the Middle East when the towers fell. And why not show a brash sort of patriotism for our country? In an age where patriotism has become an ugly word, it’s events like these that perhaps make it okay to be American again. I can understand this sentiment – I come from three generations of military veterans; among them are my dad, who served during a war in the Middle East, and my grandfather, who was involved in the operation to clean up Nagasaki after the A-Bomb.
Jubilation is a natural reaction – I felt some of that, along mostly with wonderment. But if that’s all we feel (and certainly if we advance that to the “in your face” reactions I described above), I think we miss the point.
The death of Bin Laden adds an exclamation point, if not a final chapter, to a story that many were directly a part of. It most directly impacts, emotionally, those who lost loved ones on 9/11 or in its aftermath.
Today is a time to reflect on what happened during that tragic morning. Today, we should remember the innocents who died that day – fathers, mothers, children, heroes. Now is the time to remember the firefighters and other public servants who fell to save their fellow man. Now is the time to remember those who bravely saved perhaps hundreds more by taking back United Flight 93. Now is the time to remember that so many are still hurting – wives without husbands; sons without fathers; mothers without children.
In one moment in time, most of this country came together in a spirit of love and cooperation. Now, it seems we’re more fragmented than ever, along political, social, and cultural lines. We’re particularly split when it comes to religion – everyday I see this through this blog, twitter, Yahoo! Answers, and the forums at MAL and Anime Planet. But for a moment in time, I hope that instead of further fragmenting, a news story will help to join us again. Let’s remember what’s important in life. Let’s come together in compassion, empathy, understanding, and love. Let’s be open to one another, forgetting the schisms caused by political views, sexual orientation, race, and creed, to pass on grace rather than bitterness. Let’s engage in discussion rather than engage in arguments.
Forget your prejudice. Leave behind your anger. Be open. Be hopeful. Be love.
Where were you on 9/11? Has it had a personal impact on you? How did you feel when you heard the news about Bin Laden? What will you do to be more loving?