A Decade Later: Lessons Learned?
My Daily Rant 9/4/11- updated 9/11/18
I originally wrote this piece in 2011. Now, in 2018....a lot has changed in my life, so I wanted to revisit this topic and see if much had changed. At the end of the day....it appears not.
Every generation has a "where were you" moment. For some, it was Pearl Harbor. For some, the assassination of JFK. For some, the death of Elvis. For my generation, it was 9/11. Ask anyone around you what they were doing on the day of 9/11, and I guarantee they will be able to tell you. Even those people like myself, thousands of miles away from the event itself, and not having known anyone killed in the attack, I still remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. I remember it was a Tuesday. I remember that it was a beautifully crisp, clear, Indian Summer kind of morning. And I remember the sense of dread and foreboding that hung in the air that entire day, telling us all that nothing would ever be the same. I had celebrated my first wedding anniversary the night before, and in one instant, a morning in which the world had felt full of the promise of future, that world suddenly seemed fraught with uncertainty and fear. I remember how the day seemed to drag on forever. How everything moved in slow motion and at mach speed all at once. It felt like the Twilight zone. I remember the mall in which I worked closing (something that flat out NEVER happened) and my boss making everyone stay, excited over how much we would get done. I remember thinking how callous and unbelievable some people were. How even in the midst of the greatest tragedy my generation has ever seen, the bottom line was still the most important thing.
I also remember how in the days following the attacks, America seemed to come together in a fascinating show of unity and patriotism. You couldn't go anywhere without seeing a flag pin on their lapel. We couldn't keep flag pins, display flags, or pretty much anything "Americana" on the shelves of the gift and home decor boutique where I worked. People were eager to show the world that they were proud of their country and that they would defend this great nation with vigor and an undying love. Patriotic songs were recorded overnight and began to flood the radio stations. Men and women flocked to military recruiting stations, eager to do what they could to help in the "Fight against terror".
Over the next decade, the stories of so many thousands would come out of the woodwork. Stories of survivors, stories of tragic lives lost, stories of heroes. After a little more time, stories of what really happened, who really knew what, and what some will call conspiracy theories emerged. Ten years later, I don't think anyone really knows with certainty what really happened on that crisp September day, but I know that for me, the way I felt about things has changed dramatically. I no longer accept things at face value. I no longer believe everything I hear from the talking heads on TV. I try my hardest to gather information from differing sources and sides and form my own opinion from the evidence and facts before me. I do know one thing. What happened on September 11, 2001 was horrific. It was an act of terror. But the real question is, did we learn anything?
Over the weekend, I watched a beautifully produced documentary on the memorial being built, hopefully in time for the 10th anniversary. (A link is provided below). The stories of the workers busting their humps to raise this building from the ashes, commemorate those lost, and show the world that we will not be defeated, are truly the epitome of American Spirit. But while watching the rebuild with pride and a lump in my throat, I couldn't help feeling that the one good thing that came from 9/11 seems to be disappearing rapidly. Unity. That sense of being one. Over the last few years, our country seems to have split further and further down the middle. It's as if the planes are hitting our country again, ripping things in two, exploding, sending people jumping from buildings in despair. Our own government can't get along. You can't hear an intelligent debate anymore. No one seems to know the answer to anything, except that it's the other guy's fault.
While everyone can agree that travel and security in general did a complete 360 after 9/11, are we really any safer? Some feel that we are. Some feel that the lessons we learned on 9/11, the task forces put in to place, etc. will serve to protect our country from ever having to face a terrorist attack like that again. But what are we doing to protect this country from internal combustion? While terrorists with box knives may not bring us down again, will we bring it down ourselves?
As I reflect on the past decade of my life, and think about the lessons learned from 9/11, those are the things I think about. My oldest daughter was 2 on the day of the attacks, my youngest not yet born. When they are grown, what will they think about the lessons learned from 9/11? Will they think we took the tragedy and turned it into something that made this nation stronger and better? Will they even make it that far? My fear is that we will tear this country apart at the seams before then. I hope to heck I'm wrong.
On the 10th Anniversary of the darkest day in my history, I will quietly reflect on all that was lost. I will swallow that lump in my throat that I imagine most Americans will feel that day. And I will continue to hope that we learned the right lessons.
- Rising : Rebuilding Ground Zero : Discovery Channel : Discovery Channel
Nearly a decade after the September 11th World Trade Center attacks, Discovery Channel's The Rising will bring updates from the construction site that will