Eleven years ago on September 11, I was in college. I was getting out of a Tuesday morning class when I heard people talking about an airplane crash. As I walked back to my apartment, I heard more and more information. I walked by a utility truck and heard words on the radio, “World Trade Center… airplane… Pentagon… crash.” I thought to myself, this is serious. Minutes later I watched the towers come down.
With the 11th anniversary of September 11, 2001 here, many Americans are sorting through their minds and hearts. How have I changed from 11 years ago? What do I feel when I think of September 11, 2001? Where was I on that fateful day? Why am I still sad? Where can our country go from here? Our grief is still very real.
As we reflect and look back, we have three main responses to our September 11 grief:
Anger – We are understandably upset and angry that our country was threatened. We are angry that people’s lives were lost, that our sense of security was broken, and we are hurt that people think America is not a place of freedom. Ten years ago, we looked towards people and places to direct our hostile feelings. Many of us may still be angry at people and institutions that committed these acts or did not prevent the attacks. Still, if we let our anger stew and our hate grow, we are no better than those who actively resist against our country. Anger is a place that we can visit, but we cannot make a home of it. We are often angry because we are afraid.
Sadness – Tears are a way that we let our emotions out. Feelings of depression that hovered around on September 11, 2001 are revisited 10 years later. We might even recall the numbness we felt watching the television week after week the scene of the towers coming down. We feel sadness for those families who lost loved ones. Sometimes, sadness brings back memories that we want to forget. We often want to isolate ourselves during periods of melancholy. It’s healthy to be sad and express sadness. However there is a better way.
Hope – This is the stuff that makes Americans great. Our optimism has propelled each generation to work harder so that our children can have a better life. Ten years ago, that was the message that we clung to. We hoped that we could rebuild. We did. We hoped that we could be safe. We are. We hoped that our country could be united. We remain. Hope is the final response we can have. Sure, anger and sadness are natural emotions, but it is hope that gets us through the worst of times.
On this September 11, may you have hope as you look back 11 years. May you have hope as you look forward to another 11 years. May you have hope that your family and this world can be a better place. Put your hope into action and start by committing yourself to acts of kindness and compassion in your own community.
Today, remember the day, but remember what is great about humanity: the ability to continue and recover in the midst of struggle.