Twenty Years Ago Today

Twenty years ago today, America awoke to the first full day of the new normal in the aftermath of 9/11. It definitely was anything but normal, though. As a nation, we were solidly in the first stages of unfathomable grief and overcome with a range of emotions. Shock. Anger. Disbelief. Fear. Anxious. Heartbroken. Grief stricken. Panicked.

As we struggled to wrap our heads and hearts around what happened in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., we collectively came together to mourn. We turned to our loved ones and clung to them with all of our might, and we also looked beyond the safety net of our familiar support systems. We reached out to our neighbors, our colleagues, our community, our first responders, and our fellow Americans in the cities digging out from under the physical and emotional rubble. In the face of unthinkable horror, we faced this tragedy with those we love the most and also with complete strangers. In that moment, we were one.

It should not take the worst of moments to bring out the best in us, but it did. The best in us should not fade away with time, but it has. Instead of turning to each other, we now turn on one another We are the walking wounded, and hurt people hurt people.

There is enough pain in the world without us inflicting more on one another, yet hurting others in the name of being right and proving our point has become our national default setting. Some people would argue that this is who we really are, and maybe, they are right. Maybe, they aren’t, though. We don’t need to wait for another traumatic event to bring us to our knees and inspire us to rise up together. We can start today, the day after the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 and the twentieth anniversary of when we were united and saw one another’s humanity.

To move forward, we need only look back to September 12, 2001, and the days, weeks, and months that followed for guidance.

Volunteer. Need knows season, and everyone has something to offer someone in need. Donate blood. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Become a coach for a youth sports league. Send money to a disaster relief agency. It truly is better to give than to receive, so, we need to look for ways to share our time, talent, and treasure with others whenever we have the ability to do so.

Show Gratitude. We need to take every opportunity to show our genuine appreciation to the people who cross our paths. Thank the first responders and medical staff who remain on the frontlines of the pandemic, in addition to all of the other emergencies that demand their attention. Wave to the person who lets you merge in front of them in traffic. Tip your server well. Mail an actual thank you note to someone. Gratitude has the power to truly change someone’s day, starting with our own.

Extend Compassion. Instead of judging and criticizing another person, try extending some compassion to them and see things from their perspective. We do not always know what another person is going through, so, operate from the belief that everyone’s best may not look like we think it should, but that most people really are doing the best that they can in a given moment. Remember to extend some compassion to yourself while you are at it.

Ask for Help. We do not have to go this alone, and in fact, we shouldn’t. When needed, look to others for support and guidance. A trusted family member or friend. A spiritual advisor. A mental health professional. A healer. There’s no shame in needing, and asking for, help. None at all.

Maybe, these suggestions are too simplistic, but being a decent human being really is not that complicated. We just tend to complicate things and lose sight of what and whom matter. As we continue to grieve those who were lost on 9/11, may each and every one of us recommit to being who we showed up as on 9/12.

That’s another story . . .

Categories: That's Another Story

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