Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Note from the Ashes

Talib Kweli "The Proud"

Today marks the 11th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. More than any other world event, this atrocity has shaped the way I view myself and the world around me.

This event so thoroughly captivated the world because we have become a global society that communicates mostly through images (tv, internet) and the images from this day were so profound. The phrase "it felt like a movie" was heard constantly because the only way we could process this surreal event was through pop culture. We searched our mental index of disaster movies to envision the proper response. How do people respond to the sky falling?

Soon after, we heard the real stories of how people responded. There are countless stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, for their loved ones and for absolute strangers. Heartbreaking tales of courage and sacrifice.

It's cliche to point out the fact that tragedies, especially this one, bring people together, but this anniversary always reminds me of how united we can be as a country. We are now at a point where the mere mention of a political party can incite rage. Even I have resorted to over-generalizations at times that do no good for a real discussion (and I'm supposed to be independent). We all do it.

Just recently, This letter, written from a man trapped on the 84th floor of the World Trade Center on that fateful day, made its way home to his wife after passing through several hands over the past ten years. He wrote this to notify someone, anyone, about the people trapped on his floor. All those people, despite all odds, trying desperately to help each other survive.

Afterwards, we mourned together as a country. For a short time, we felt united. I won't get into what happened afterwards (the lies and deceit by our own government that led us into two unsustainable, unjustified wars, one of which has lasted more than a decade) but for that small moment, we saw what the people of this country were capable of. It was inspiring. If we can adopt that mindset to deal with our everyday problems, like the economy, and education, and FUCKING AFGHANISTAN, we will have a much brighter future than if we maintain our current attitude of contempt and ridicule for people with slightly differing opinions on healthcare or immigration reform.

9/11 will always be remembered, especially in this age of the image. It changed the world in more ways than we think. People not born yet will still feel the effects of this tragedy; not just learn about it, but actually feel it. It has sent a ripple through time, a shock-wave that will resonate for generations to come. I hope we remember the moments right after the attacks. The empathy for our fellow citizens, regardless of who they were. The solidarity, the willingness to never give up fighting for each other's lives. Even the anger; remember how we felt about our attackers, and remember what that anger led us to. Remember the lives lost. Imagine the pain that wife must have felt when that letter finally reached her; after believing that he died quickly and painlessly for ten years, she discovered that her husband was still alive when the buildings fell. This small letter had miraculously survived and literally risen up from the ashes to make a journey all the way back to her. It was painful, but she deserved to know the truth, and hopefully it has brought her some peace. I think the few words on the charred piece of paper show that her husband was a hero. Even in those final bleak moments, he still fought to survive, to help his fellow men and women. Against all odds, he made one final effort to save himself and those around him. That is the spirit we need to remember.

Even if we wanted to, we could never forget. There will always be those random moments or words or images that remind us. I welcome them. 9/11 was a day when I felt every emotion possible: sadness, confusion, fear, anger, hope, despair, courage, and on and on. It represented the extremes of each end of the human spectrum, from absolute good to absolute evil. It was a surreal moment that brought reality into focus for my young mind.

As we remember the emotions brought on by the attacks, I also hope we remember what it was like before 9/11. There was a lot less paranoia. A lot less fear. I won't say there was much more camaraderie or partisanship in politics, but we seemed a little more civilized about our contempt for each other, and we seemed able to get things done. More than a decade later, we still haven't finished the 9/11 monument. In honor of the thousands of lives lost that day, and the many more lost in the wake of the attacks, let's try to remember that we are all on the same side here. Some of us have different ideas on how to achieve our goals, but we are all working for the same things.

Let's work together so we don't finish the job the attackers started.

RIP to the victims of the attacks and all those who have died in the response to those attacks.

I Love You All...Class Dismissed.

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