Nineteen years later – what does 9/11 continue to mean to America and the world? This is a day that must give us pause, a day of unthinkable horror that will always be remembered by anyone born before 2001. It is also a day that has and will continue to impact every person worldwide, regardless of his or her age and nationality. This is the day when the world stopped and gave a collective gasp – The United States was attacked on its own soil, by an outside entity, for the first time since Pearl Harbor signaled a new phase in World War II. This is a day that changed our lives forever, that set a new uncomfortable course for the world, and a day that changed how others viewed the U.S. We were suddenly – vulnerable.
First, and foremost, for me and others who were going about their normal business on that day in 2001 – this is a day to remember the fear and uncertainty that rushed through our veins when word of the attack became real; when the twin towers crashed to the streets of New York, when a passenger jet plowed into the Pentagon, and when another was brought to a halt in a Pennsylvania field en route to the White House. That moment brought about a paralyzing fear of: “What just happened, what is next, who did this, how could this be happening?” This was also a moment that drove us all to immediately think about our families and what must be done to protect them.
In the days to follow, the real meaning of 9/11 would become clear. We learned of the friends, family and co-workers who lost their lives in the attack, the first responders who would selflessly give their lives to help others, the extent to which this event would change the character of America, and for the first time leave our citizens with a realization that we were vulnerable.
In the days to follow we would see the world united in condemning what happened and showing solidarity for America and our people. “My God, someone attacked the United States! What does this mean for every other free country in the world?” There was unity among our allies and even those who were on the fence about a relationship with the U.S. We could, for a period of time, feel comfort in how much support we saw throughout the world.
In the days to follow, the world focused on a common enemy- terrorism. It seemed as though this focus could actually bring about a collective effort to stop the growth of hate and violence that brought about this terrorist statement, a statement that pointed to our fragility. Dozens of countries would send their troops and advisors to help America fight this battle that threatened the free world – it was, if such a statement can be made, a reality that brought about a feeling of completeness and unification.
Then we over-stepped our bounds, other underlying initiatives drove us to make assumptions, and include other deeply seated theories in our approach towards this common battle. What once was a unified effort would slowly lose its heart and many of our allies drifted away – eventually leaving America to fight a battle that was no longer clear and the countries impacted left with even more fragility and anger at its peak. The world became even more polarized than it was in the past and nationalism rose up its ugly head in not just America, but in numerous European countries as well. Tens of thousands of soldiers and innocent bystanders would lose their lives or end up with life long disabilities as a result of wars without end.
Our country was changed significantly on that day in 2001. The fear and anger that was justified on 9/11 fueled the fires of mistrust, polarization, isolation, and hate. The face of America looks quite different than it did in the summer of 2001. The once unified world that respected the meaning of America and supported the democratic dream that was the model for others to follow was damaged, maybe beyond repair. The word of Americans and the intent to be a guiding light for human rights and personal freedom was much dimmer than it was in the summer of 2001.
The scabs of previous cuts and bruises in our history were ripped off in the coming years- exposing old wounds that had not been adequately addressed, but rather simply bandaged and ignored. Worldwide concern over a new American direction was heightened as they watched internal discontent and anger rise up on the streets of our country that had always been the example of justice and righteousness.
America changed on 9/11 and we are where we are with far more uncertainty, polarization, and fear than at any other time, at least in my life. World terrorists have taken a back seat to domestic terrorists. We no longer disagree with others; we hate them if their thoughts and beliefs don’t align with ours. The world no longer turns to America for direction; in fact they turn away from us so as not to be infected with this spreading negativity and malaise. America has changed, and not for the better.
On this day we need to remember all of those fine people who lost their lives on 9/11, all of those first responders who gave of themselves in an effort to save and protect others, those soldiers of America and our allies who gave their lives in the fight against terrorism, and the concept of America that has lost so much ground in 19 years. At the same time we must remember that what made America great is still there under the cloud of uncertainty and isolation. We can resurrect what has always been great about America and rise up again. We can unite our country so that our differences are embraced rather than being viewed as irreconcilable and we can win back the respect and support of our allies so they once again view our country as that place that defined freedom. We should no longer allow what happened on 9/11 to be a moment in time when the definition of America was changed. We must unite, use our vote to make a difference, look to our left and look to our right and know that the person beside us can have different opinions and beliefs and that is OK. Doing the right thing has always been what made our country special and doing the right thing now is the best way to remember all of those individuals whose lives were lost or changed as a result of this day, 19 years ago.
As is always the case on this day – I want to pay special tribute to Chris Carstanjen – a former student of mine who lost his life in a plane that crashed into the twin towers. Chris was a kind soul who boarded that plane en route to a well-deserved vacation. He had no idea what was to happen minutes later, nor would he ever dream what that day would mean to the world 19 years later. Pay due respect to Chris on this day – vote, open your arms and hearts to others, and help to bring back the soul of America. Let November 3, 2020 be the day of a new beginning that Chris and millions of others would want – the America they knew and believed in.
PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Harvest America Ventures, LLC