As I was flying home last night from seeing family, I had a bit of time to reflect on 9/11. I thought about the U2 concert I went to. For 15 minutes, me and 54,996 strangers had something in common, a desire to attend the same concert. I went to a stadium fashioned after a big Viking ship, symbolizing the strong Norwegian influence in the area. Take-off and landing, a gentle reminder that from the long view, we’re indistinguishable. What toll has 9/11 extracted?
Should we be holding on to some things and letting go of others? In no way is this an attempt to marginalize the loss of those families who were impacted by this terrorist event on American soil. It is, however, a call to action to reclaim the best pieces of America that have been contaminated by politicians and fearmongers. Let’s enhance and stitch those pieces together for a transformative future.
For most in my generation, 9/11 is an epochal event, like when the Challenger went down, we all remember where we were. I also remember airline travel before 9/11. I remember a nation not in a perpetual state of war. I remember a nation that celebrated creativity and ingenuity, regardless of the origin. I remember freedom of speech and its protection. I remember public conversation flowing from an attempt to understand the other side, not vilify it. Most of all, I remember the chance to grow as a human, rooted in the common human experience, where all our commonalities came colliding together for the chance to flourish.
As I look at the generations behind me, their airline travel has always been a burden. They are on a trajectory to only remember a nation at war. They will remember a nation perpetually at odds with itself, driven by fear and isolationism, quashing creativity and the sharing of ideas. At the slightest provacation, they are publicly eviscerated, stunting the capacity to extend grace and kindness. Thus far, America is creating for them a shared human experience defined by fear and a perceived scarcity.
America lives in a permanent state of war and thus a permanent state of fear. Historically, our success stems from the interplay between optimism and creativity. It’s the unwavering restlessness and courage of immigrants who left their home nations and believed they could create a better life for themselves and their children. I believe much of the malcontent state we’re perpetuating is the subversion of creativity by fear. We believe we hem in the acts of a few by a myriad of special efforts. What if we flip that on its head and acknowledge we have no control over a few bad actors. Let’s shift our energies and resources, approaching the future with openness and vibrancy, believing we can craft moments larger than ourselves, reflective of our best selves. And, by extension, honor those who died by rising above terrorism, fear and anger through grace, kindness and generosity.
So far America has proven herself to be resilient and cooperative. When catastrophes like Harvey and Irma strike, we see that bubble up to the surface. What if we were to try to leave it on the surface and live that way every day? Do we have the courage to believe in our shared humanity?
“Wounded by fear and injured in doubt;” can we muster the stamina to move beyond our self-inflicted wounds and choose a future reflective of our greatest traits? As you remember the shifts in your life on this 16th anniversary, look to the small contributions you can make to yourself and those around you. Let’s collaborate to give future generations a better and more prosperous nation.