“Today, we are all Americans”
That quote is from French president Jacque Chirac, on a day, 16 years ago, that defied and defined who we are. The awful attacks on the World Trade Center left a scar for many of us.
And yet, 16 years later, it appears that the American experience is convulsing in ways we did not expect back then. Wars and financial crisis did not undo the pioneering optimistic and inclusive spirit of this nation. In fact, they seemed to strengthen it.
But in the last few months, the country seems to have fallen into the trap of division, turning into the kind of place where people scream at each other but do not listen to other viewpoints; the kind of place where blame is assigned on the others (Muslim ban, walls against Mexicans, ending DACA) but solutions are not presented; the kind of place where a president can claim that there could be “some fine people” in a crowd of Nazis.
This is NOT America. This is not the picture of America that the rest of the world woke up to 16 years ago before people filled with hatred drove planes into symbolic buildings.
This is not the picture of America that the rest of the world woke up to 16 years ago before people filled with hatred drove planes into symbolic buildings. This is not the kind of inclusive place the world has long looked up to. This is not the kind of country that people seek to join.
America is about optimism; America is about inclusion; America is about “We” not “Me”. THAT is what the terrorists wanted to destroy and THAT is what we must preserve.
I am feeling grateful and optimistic that this is a temporary dark period (America has had others, like the Civil War and the rise of the KKK in the 1920s) and that this country will find its mojo again.
We owe it to the people who have died on this horrible day, if for no other reason than to make their sacrifice meaningful. Failure to do so would mean that we are no better than the people who attacked us.
Carlos Dominguez, Mark Ellis, Melissa Vincent, Michael DiPasquale, Cynthia Giugliano, Jeremy Glick, David Halderman, Steve Weinberg, Gerard Jean Baptiste, Tom McCann, David Vera.
This post is part of a continuing series in which I remember those I knew who were lost on that day. Here are the previous years: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, and 2002. For context, you might want to read The day after, which is about as raw as one can get about that day as I wrote that piece less than 36 hours after the first plane hit. This is the longest series I’ve ever written and I expect to continue yearly until I can no longer write.