This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day. Yet, we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world. -President George W. Bush on September 11, 2001
Each generation has a moment that will forever be seared into their memory: where they were, how they found out, how they felt. For many people my age, it’s the morning of September 11, 2001. I will forever remember exactly where I stood and who I was speaking to sixteen years ago when I learned that the country was under attack. While that day should never be forgotten, it’s the days that came after (and those still to come) that I view as equally important.
Those terrorist attacks scared us; that’s what they were meant to do. But it’s what we do with that fear that matters. Each time fear is expressed as hate or mistrust, the bad guys win. Each day that someone chooses to be afraid of their fellow American instead of trying to understand them, a point goes in the wrong column. Lately, it seems like a lot of points are getting scored against us. It may be sixteen years later and we may have “won” in terms of the history books, but we still have quite a bit of work left to do.
The heroes of September 11th did not care whether the people they saved were black or white, Muslim or Christian, liberals or conservative, gay or straight. They went directly into the face of danger to save their fellow Americans because all that other stuff didn’t matter. When we pause to remember all that day meant, let’s remember that the “other stuff” doesn’t matter, no matter how often people try to say it does.
Sixteen years later, let’s continue to show the world the best of America, not just in times of tragedy. Let’s ask instead of assuming, love instead of hate and seek to understand instead of relying on stereotypes. May we never forget the horrible events of the day, but may we always more easily remember how the best of America is still within each of us.