Reflecting on 9/11

I was in middle school when 9/11 happened. I remember the atmosphere in the school was one of confusion, as the principal and faculty did the best they could to manage the chaos of hundreds of middle schoolers wondering ‘what is going on?!’ At one point, many of us crowded into a classroom where a teacher was showing the news on a projector, watching smoke billow out of the towers, feeling somber, shocked, and scared. To me, in my young mind, things like this were not supposed to happen to America. I literally could not put the events of the day into any type of narrative that made sense with my view of America, my life, or my world. So I pushed it away. I think many of us did.

Now, I want to share some thoughts as I start to confront what happened. I think because the experience was so stunning for Americans, we have collectively not dealt with the fallout of the event well, at all. The first step, I guess, is to talk about my personal feelings and thoughts about it.

On a millennial note, these terrifying events like the advent of school shootings and 9/11 had a major impact on my generation’s collective psyche. The institutions and people that were supposed to respond properly to attacks like this failed…and failed miserably. Even our parents turned against us. How many times have we heard that ‘Millenials destroyed XYZ industry, millennials are lazy, millennials are emotional and weak’ So even our parent's generation, the one that was supposed to protect us, turned against us instead of acknowledging that what happened had an impact on us? No wonder we are so cynical and skeptical. And I still feel hurt by this, deep down, when it comes up, even though I’ve learned to ignore it. But it still hurts.

On a grander scale, our country’s people still haven’t processed our inherent vulnerabilities as a country and make easy pickings for politicians manipulating our fears for their own financial gain as well. This makes me angry. I feel angry that the government did such a bad job adequately and appropriately dealing with the issue, from the poor first response from President Bush, the apathy of President Obama, to the betrayal of our Kurdish allies of President Trump, and terrible withdrawal from Afghanistan by President Biden. I feel angry that our parent’s generation chose to turn against each other to vent their anger on ‘demoncrats’ or the ‘GQP’ instead of working together and protecting their children. But I also feel compassion, because I really think 9/11 messed everyone’s heads up pretty badly.

Part of healing is acknowledging what I love about my country, instead of falling into anger and bitterness about it. Here are my top 10 favorite things.

  • I can openly bring criticism of our leaders in a public forum without being frightened of retaliation by the government.
  • I’m a woman and I can vote on issues that matter to me.
  • I can write my #congressmen with my concerns and requests for what I want them to do, and they will write back and sometimes even do those things!
  • I can spend time with my parent’s generation and have conversations in which we disagree or have very uhhh…’vocal’ political fights, without fear of a government army busting into our house and arresting us.
  • We are such a diverse country that it's genuinely amazing. We have people from all over the world living here, and we have so much awesome food and viewpoints.
  • We have such cool creative opportunities because of our embracing of different cultures.
  • We are amazing entrepreneurs.
  • Our country itself is gorgeous.
  • Americans are, on the whole, open and friendly people, which I really like.
  • Positive social change comes slowly, but it does come.

Also a note of appreciation for both sides of our political spectrum. I love that one of the core values of conservatives is to value carrying out tradition as a way to stay safe in a community, and I love that a core value of liberals of giving everyone a seat at the table who deserves it, and that they have a path free from prejudice or discrimination to get there. I love that independent voters have essentially said ‘I’ve had enough of this sh*t!’ and had the fortitude to make their own political party. That points to a lot of grit and backbone. Which I like a lot.

And I think that's really what my country is. We have grit. We care about strong communities. And we are constantly working and moving toward providing more and more environments where people of all backgrounds can succeed. We are deeply far from perfect, and we also have a lot of darkness and wrong things that we have done to others. But, at the end of the day, I feel genuine love and appreciation for my country. And I fucking love her people.

I’m really sad about what happened, and I’m really sad for each and every American. We’ve been through a lot these past 20 years.

I’ll leave you with a song that resonates deeply with me and so many others.

God bless America, land that I love

Stand beside her and guide her

Through the night with the light from above.

From the mountains to the prairies

To the oceans white with foam

God bless America, my home sweet home.

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