Ten years ago today, much of the world came to a stop as we watched with numbing horror, the terrorist attacks on the United States.
We wanted it to be a bad dream but it wasn’t.
The hijackers had taken control of four planes and used them to destroy the lives of countless individuals. The lives of their families, friends and the ones who somehow managed to survive were forever altered. The livelihoods of thousands who worked in the area were also greatly changed.
Almost 3,000 people died that day. Hundreds of fireman, law enforcement and medical personal who raced to the scene to save others were among those who perished. Over 3,000 children lost a parent on 9/11.
I’m not going to go into the details of that day or the reasons for the attacks. There are any number of articles that one can read if you search for them. I wrote my own remembrances of that day three years ago.
What I will say, is that it still boggles the mind that anyone could have that much hatred and belief in their convictions to knowingly and willingly want to destroy not just their own life but the lives of innocent people who happened to be travelling on those planes or be in those buildings on that day. The attacks were focussed on the USA but citizens of over 100 countries were lost.
I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting New York, although I’ve had relatives living there and know many people who have traveled there. I’ve never been to Washington or Pennsylvania either.
At the time of the attacks, I didn’t know anyone who was born and raised in or near New York. Since 2001, I’ve gotten to know at least a couple of New Yorker’s online but I’ve never asked them about how that day impacted their lives. I think I avoided it because I was afraid of opening a barely healing scar or stirring up memories they may not wish to discuss with someone they only know online.
Since that day, there have been even more military personal killed fighting the war on terrorism. There have also been many deaths due to other smaller scale terrorist attacks around the world by various radicals, groups and home-grown extremists. Most recently the lone gunman who killed 77 people and injured more than 150 in Norway. The reasons for that attack, were completely opposite of the 9/11 ones, but they were all carried out by people who believed in their cause to the point of killing others to promote and carry out their beliefs.
Reactions to any of the mass killings – regardless of the reasons behind them – are generally met with horror and the cry of “not again!”. Lives are shattered by these events and we always wonder if there was something that could have been done to prevent it. Citizens have been advised to be aware of their surroundings and watch for things that seem unusual for the setting. That awareness has prevented some dangerous situations but it has also brought false accusations. Finding a balance of that watchfulness is difficult.
Sadly. many have become suspiciously watchful of those around them. Questioning and distrustful of those who are not of similar backgrounds and beliefs. Building walls around themselves to protect them from perceived evil rather than taking a little time to learn about the cultures and beliefs of others. They fail, or perhaps refuse to see that there are good and bad in all facets of society - be it religious, ethnic or any other factors.
Some choose to call for revenge. Some choose to live in fear.
Thankfully, not all have closed their hearts and minds to others in this world. Many are reaching out to learn more about how other people on this shared planet live and what they believe. If one looks long enough and close enough they will almost always find a commonality.
I shared this concept a few years ago but I think it bears repeating here. Back in the late 1970’s, a teacher in a religious studies course that I took, used this analogy to explain how various religions can see the same God:
“The Creator" is like a diamond with multiple facets. All sides are slightly different and various religions see different sides. So whether you refer to The Creator as God, Jehovah, Allah or as a Higher Power you are actually just looking at another side of the same thing. Yes the various religions have different beliefs, but there are common factors that will always unite us if we choose to be open to each other."
Reaching out, trusting and moving on are not easy by any stretch of the imagination. Especially if your world has been shattered so brutally and unexpectedly.
We can’t ignore the past. It happened and we can’t change that. Nor should we forget it. We don’t know how long each of us has on this earth, but we can’t stop living, learning or loving while we are here.
But, if we are to live a life worth living and experience all that it has to offer, then we must also learn to accept other people as they are and be respectful of their life.
I choose not to live in fear.
I choose not to live in ignorance or intolerance of other cultures or beliefs.
I choose to love.
Yes, I realize that the terrorist attacks did not take place in my neighbourhood, nor did I lose anyone on September 11, 2001, but we all have to decide how we will live our lives in these sadly troubled times.
Canadian singer/songwriter/artist Meaghan Smith has written a deeply inspiring post called Peace September. She talks of the ways we must all find peace within ourselves to live and to love. She closes with this:
“Because Love can walk freely where Peace has cleared the path.
With all my heart I hope that we can find peace within ourselves. And then that peace will overflow into our homes and families and friends and co workers and neighborhoods and cities and counties and eventually countries and finally... Peace on Earth.”
Recently. Canadians lost a beloved and charismatic politician named Jack Layton. He had been the leader of the New Democrat Party of Canada for the last several years. This past spring, he led the party to its strongest showing ever in a federal election and the first time that the party gained opposition status.
Mr. Layton succumbed to cancer just days after writing a heartfelt letter to the people of this country. The letter was released to the public after his death on August 22, 2011. It addressed the issues that the party and the people would face in the coming months and years.
The words with which he chose to close the letter, are words that we should all strive to live by no matter where we live in this world and regardless of our political or religious beliefs.
“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”
– Jack Layton (1950-2011)