To My Family and Friends,
Twenty years. A lifetime and the blink of an eye. As I write this, my mind is focused squarely on the week ahead. This week marks the twentieth anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the citizens of the United States. A day that I so clearly remember, as I know most of you do, too. A beautiful morning where I started my second period gym class at school slightly more innocent and much more secure than how I finished it. A moment in time that changed everyone, everywhere, forever.
Reflecting on that time, I remember September 11th and the days that followed like moments from a movie. The teachers were crying as they crowded around the television. My father’s voice as he called to tell me that my uncle was working at the towers that morning. The panic of parents rushing into school to pick up their children. Hugging my mother and sister. The first real horror and grief that I had ever experienced.
What I remember most, however, when I think back on that time were the American flags. Flags flew proudly from every home in my New Jersey community. The support for our country was displayed from coast to coast. There was an underlying bond that tied communities together. We had experienced, and persevered, through such unimaginable tragedy. We were going to war and the overarching feeling was one of camaraderie. It was in this patriotism that we shared kindness and compassion for one another. I had never been so proud to live in America.
America has been through a lot since then. Though certainly different from the terrorism that we experienced twenty years ago, most recently, it feels as though we have endured many tragedies all at once. The global pandemic has caused loss of life and loss of human interaction with no immediate end in sight. Racial injustice has forced the country to confront racism of the past and present. Global warming is causing devastating mass weather events.
With our recent tragedies, rather than coming together and persevering as one, we’ve increasingly become more divided as a nation. Social media has created a space for constant judgement and criticism. Online bullies, even subtle ones, are often met with fifteen minutes of social media fame, further fanning the flames for division and judgement. Our politics have never been more divisive and every event is now politicized for political gain with further online rhetoric for all to see. Neighbors and families can no longer listen to each other unless they share the exact same opinion or perspective.
What our country needs now, more than ever, is to work together. To quote an old childhood saying, we need to think as “we” instead of as “me.” I hope and wish for a country that can gain some perspective from this, the twentieth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, and remember the pride in living in a democratized society. A country that has afforded us freedoms and liberties that so many around the world do not have. I hope that we can start looking at one another as more than a demographic box and instead as a fellow citizen and human being. We need to think of others before ourselves and to re-prioritize morals and values above divisive rhetoric for the sake of online attention. Finally, I hope that we can start listening to one another again. To truly listen to varying points of view, without judgement and criticism, and recognize that our perspective is not always the only one.
My hope for you all is that we can persevere and support one another through whatever lies ahead. If this year has taught us anything, it’s that together, we are stronger than we are alone. I know that, just as we did on September 11th, 2001 and in the weeks and months that followed, we can see the light through the shadows and remember how lucky we are to live in this amazing country. I’ll be here with my American flag waving and my hand outstretched to you.