What September 11th Can Still Teach Us About Each Other
I was a little kid when the attacks on the World Trade Center occurred. My Mother got me out of the Catholic school and we ran home to see my dad in the kitchen with the TV on. My interest at the time was on airplanes. I absolutely loved them, we visited the Republic Airport‘s mini museum a lot. So when Dad said to me that planes had hit the World Trade Center, I had dozens of questions about the planes. What kind were they? How big were they? How many windows did they have? How many pilots? It was naivety and innocence, not knowing the full extent of what happened.
This past week I journeyed down the World Trade Center Memorial and decided to reflect. It was the first time I’ve ever been to that part of Manhattan. As I walked through the crowds and gazed at the memorials I just kept contemplating about the event, how bizarre it was, and how significant it was to not only to our city but the whole world.
2001 was the first year of the Bush administration and most people thought he’d be a pretty domestic president. Conan was still with NBC, George Harrison was still alive (albeit very sick with cancer), and the internet had just started to become a daily part of our lives. When the World Trade Center was hit, it felt like all of our society and way of life was kicked in the nuts. It was just so strange. We never knew something so simple, but so barbaric, would happen to a people whose society, culture, and technology seemed to be at the top of the world. We Americans had thought we left this kind of thing back in 1941.
And to think that on September 10th, everyone was just going about their day. Mothers and fathers heading to work, children going to school, and dogs being walked. On the 12th, there were fewer mothers and fathers heading to work, nobody going to school, and dogs being kept inside.
September 11th made us want to act, it made us want to extract revenge on an invisible force. A global superpower wanting to hunt down a group of people who had no nation, no borders, no known form of government, and no publicity other than the attacks it had forced on other human beings.
It had started a whole international conversation on terrorism, as that day proved even the most powerful nation on Earth was suspectable to this type of violence. A violence that had only been seen on television, heard on radio, and read in newspapers about places thousands of miles away. This happened right here, in a borough of a city in which so much media, so much culture and so much humanity culminates.
And the question that still pervades us, especially during the current political climate of this country is this: How do we return to our humanity? More importantly, when will there be the day in which each of us (as human beings) recognize that we are all insignificant in the eyes of the universe? How will we learn to strip away the prejudices of each other and work together? Because it seems every day we don’t see that humanity within ourselves it breeds disrespect, then hate, and then eventually devolving into some abhorrent act like flying a plane or two into a building. Maybe if we open ourselves up to one another without any pre-conceived notions we wouldn’t have these terrorist attacks in the first place.
But in reality, I still don’t know the answer to that question.
The National September 11 Memorial and Museum is located at 180 Greenwich Street. The memorial is open daily from 9:30 AM to 7 PM.
*All photos taken by the author