Sunday, September 11, 2016

9/11 - "We Will Never Forget"... I'm Pretty Sure We Already Have

I remember where I was, what I was doing, and how the entire day went... September 11th, 2001.  I was 18 and a freshman in college.  I was getting ready for class and was heading out the door when the news came on about the first tower being hit, and being my first-born, authority-pleasing self, I went ahead and drove the few minutes to campus, even though I was still trying to sift through all the details of this freak accident in my mind - searching for more information on the radio as I drove.  I ran into my class, which was to be held in the auditorium that day with a guest speaker.  Instead of the speaker, they had the news projected onto the giant stage screen, and at first I was very confused, because as I entered and watched the replay video of the plane hitting the tower, I realized there was already smoke and flames...  And then it dawned on me what I had just seen on that large screen was a live shot of the second plane hitting the other tower, not a replay of the first.  We all just sat there watching, crying, many on their phones calling loved ones.  It was soon announced that our speaker's plane had not landed on time, and that class was cancelled.  Soon, the entire campus canceled classes and closed, later my shift at the local American Eagle was canceled because the whole mall closed, the line at the gas pump was forever long, and once I finally got back home, I sat in the living room and watched the news all day long.  I thought back to 6th grade when we learned about the Oklahoma City Bombing and watched the news all day in all our classes - how jumbled all the information had been at first - and how much what I might be hearing then on 9/11 would later be corrected.  I thought about how much I missed my parents.  I watched people covered in ashes limp out of the cloud that was New York City.  I heard speeches, watched Congress sing "God Bless America" together on the Capitol steps, and the President ended the day by promising we would bring the terrorists to justice.

It seemed for such a long time, I'm not sure how long, American flags were EVERYWHERE! On government buildings, stores, cars... People held each other and prayed.  Opposing sides wept and worked together.  Persons of different religions, races, cultures, etc. stood together to honor those that had fallen because they worked in the targeted places, and those who also lost their lives because they entered those areas to do their greatest work.  We said we would never forget... we literally wrote it on the sides of buildings and hung great banners with our promise.

And then we forgot anyway.

After a long while, people took the flags down, and they remembered their arguments and picked their hatred, prejudices, lies, and manipulation back up.  We went back to looking out for ourselves instead of others.  We forgot that we once rose from the ashes as a nation to be leaders in victory against evil...

I mean, sure, we remember the date and the facts and what took place... but look at the current events in our nation, and you easily see that we have forgotten.  It is staggering to me how different things are since 15 years ago!  Less community, more division.  And especially in this election year, I fear we now make so many decisions, and make stances built upon fear and selfishness.  And it has all been magnified and exponentially bred over the years by the abuse of social media to argue and attack one another.  We now value our own opinions more than we do someone else's life... which, if we think about it, is how 9/11 happened in the first place.

Why was it so easy to come together on this day 15 years ago?  Perhaps because at that time, we saw that everyone is going through a struggle.  That every life is precious.  That it is a grave mistake to value your beliefs over others' lives.  Sure, most of us wouldn't kill other people we disagree with today, but how often do we spew hate with our words, spoken or typed?

I have seen "We will never forget" all over my newsfeed today... but it is a lie, America.  You have forgotten.  With racism, riots, lies, manipulating facts, feeding upon people's fears, not standing up for the right, not calling out wrongs, and pretending to be the same country that once had a strong backbone and a loving heart.

You might remember being sad.  You may remember that people were killed.  That others sacrificed.  You might remember that security became tighter.  But "We will never forget" wasn't about remembering facts and past feelings!  It was a message, a lesson, that apparently we missed.

"We will never forget" should have meant that we finally learned our lesson about putting our differences aside.  We should have learned that decisions should be made based on love AND logic, not only one side, and definitely not out of fear and victimization.

I can't help but feel angry at the stark contrast between the country I lived in as an 18-year-old and the one I live in now.  People are so easily offended, take sides so quickly.  We surround ourselves with only opinions that sound like our own.  And we throw grace out the window once we are approached by someone with a differing view.  Perhaps it seems worse even more this year because it is an election year, one that scares me tremendously.  I am a strong conservative, but people on all sides scare me with their tactics, and their supporters' angry arguing tempts me to despair.

I guess I am also tempted to become overwhelmed with defeat because it is now 15 years away from the tragedy.  And if we didn't really learn these lessons then, how could we learn them now?  And so many major tragedies have happened since, but our responses aren't the same.  These mass shootings and bombings around the world have only divided us more.  Do we have to experience greater mass disaster to truly care about one another?  Can we only be great when circumstances are at their worst?

I am only one person, and I am only raising a few children.  I cannot control what others say and do, and let's face it, I can't control what the people living in my home say or do.  I probably will not change the world, and maybe not even the minds of the people who read this.  But I am determined that in our home and lives that "We will never forget" will not be an empty promise spoken by selfish hearts just to feel better about themselves.  I am determined that in our realm of influence it will mean these important things:

1)  All life is precious.  I do not care if you and I agree.  I don't care if you annoy the crap out of me.  I don't care if you are of a different race, religion, lifestyle, age, gender, or political affiliation - you are made in the image of God, and I see your life as precious.

2)  We live in a community of souls.  And each soul has struggles.  I will not see my struggle as more important than yours.  I will try to make yours mine as well.  I will try to help you get through it.  Not because I am stronger than anyone else, because I'm not... quite the opposite!  I should want to help you bear your burden because I am another soul with another struggle.  That should develop compassion in my heart for yours, and hopefully yours for mine.  What good comes from being in the trenches together, trying to prove to others that our part of the trench is deeper?!  What do we win if we prove we have the hardest struggle?  I feel like so many are trying to make everyone else aware that their struggle is more difficult than others'.  I know I must do better at living intentionally for community and remembering others' struggles.  I need to remember that life is more fulfilling when poured out for others.

3)  I will be thankful.  For life.  For freedom.  For those who paved the way for me to have both of those.  If any one of those who died could see how we take life and freedom for granted, I can't imagine how it would feel like a stab to their heart.  How dare we live life in America like we don't owe our thanks to someone else for it!

4)  I will fight temptation to lose hope.  I have hope for many things and people.  I hope our country repents and turns to God.  I hope the oppressed are met with compassion and help.  I hope we would all want to contribute to society with the abilities and resources we have been blessed with, not if the government requires us to, but out of gratitude to be alive in this great country.  I hope those with more would give to those with less, out of gratitude for having so much.  I hope those with less would find comfort in the Lord and His people... which means I wish the Church would WAKE UP and DO THE JOB Christ set before us!  I hope that wrongs would be made right.  I hope that we would forgive and graciously let go of all hatred and bigotry.  I hope that people would truly want power to change things for good, instead of just being able to call the shots.

5)  I will remember the Greatest Sacrifice, and that didn't happen only 15 years ago.  While I will remember and honor those fallen on 9/11 and allow the lessons to wash over me and change me... there is a Greater Death and Life found in Christ, Himself!  Those of us who trust in this great God should never be dismayed.  For He humbled Himself to experience our struggles and limited His own power to understand our hardships, and He did it all without selfishness or sin... and when the right time came, He gave Himself up to give you and I the greatest hope there is.  If and when none of my hopes come to fruition, I still hope, because of Christ's sacrifice and example and the Word of God, I can continue to hope for eternal things and not despair at the corruption of governments made by man.

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So while I weep at the memories of 9/11, I should not allow the sadness to overcome me.  And while I remember the tragedy, I should also remember the strength and compassion displayed in the midst of it.  How truly tragic it is, if 9/11 becomes merely a sad day with a cool video in memory of a lot of people who died.  "We will not forget" should mean "this has changed us and drives us forward, together".


  1. You are an amazing young lady, daughter, mother, sister, neice, educator and spiritual diva....Beautiful you and happy you are in my life.

    1. Thanks! I am really honored you would say that, but I am messed up - we all are. That is why I needed to write this. I feel like the unity we found in this tragedy is a better way to live than in looking out only for ourselves. You are definitely good at taking care of others, and I really admire that about you! I love you too, Aunt Sherry!