On top of the usual tears and lump in my throat that catch me each year around 9/11, I also feel a different kind of deep sadness, the same I’ve felt for the past several years, the same I’ve felt ever since politically incorrect, brash, aggressive, separatist words and actions have overthrown common decency in our nation. I mourn the lost soul of this country that demands we be divided rather than together. Not even two decades since the 9/11/2001 attacks on this country, we have managed to flip to the polar opposite mindset of that which held us together as one nation… under God… indivisible… with liberty and justice for all.
Never since perhaps World War II has this country been as united as it was immediately post-9/11/2001. Now, because of the divisive rhetoric and petty whims of dangerous people holding the highest offices in the country and potentially the world–combined with the aggressive agenda of the ultra powerful and rich who support and potentially control these people–many of us feel there is little hope that this country will be united ever again. I think of the sacrifices of all our first responders at the various locations where our enemies’ wrath was felt on September 11, 2001. I think of honor and valor and other super-hero qualities our first responders and average citizens exhibited that day nineteen years ago and the many weeks afterward at Ground Zero in New York City where there was still a shred of hope that more people could be saved. I think of the physical health toll on all those that worked The Pile at Ground Zero for many weeks afterwards and some for another four months even beyond that—my former husband included, who sadly is now deceased because of it. I think, too, of the critical related work he did for several years afterward, constantly putting his life at risk and the resultant toll it took on him. I especially think of the mental health toll on all the responders and how that added to the stress and distress of becoming ill from unknown causes and unidentified ailments.
I think of my former husband walking the streets and sidewalks of lower Manhattan in the days and weeks after 9/11, places he and I had walked so many times years prior that were no longer recognizable to him. When everything is crushed. When everything is buried under inches of toxic dust made of every possible pulverized building and office material ever produced since Manhattan was born. When you’re aware that all that dust that you’re walking through also contains the pulverized remains of thousands of human beings who were once your neighbors, your friends, or the people you might smile at as you walked through a supermarket. When some of those body parts are recognizable to your eyes but your mind cannot fathom it. Normally, you might acknowledge what it is in the moment, you might run and tell someone, but now you cannot even speak… your mind has gone numb. When all this is at your feet as you stumble through a surreal landscape that resembles the moon more than planet Earth, the sheer enormity of it is likely to mess with your mind, to misalign what cannot be easily explained and deposit it instead in a dead-end recess of the mind that is magnetic in its ability to keep drawing you back to that place… that time… that experience where things cannot be explained but only felt as sheer horror, abandonment, and hopelessness.
It’s times like these when we are so lost that we so very much need each other. On this 9/11 anniversary, I feel we need each other more than ever. But we are no longer there for each other, not like the year or so immediately following 9/11. Since 2016, we live in a self-indulgent, me-first social experiment. Many are not thinking of the long term where we will surely need each other again as we did during World War II or post-9/11. Many are thinking of short-term gain, of winning, of being best at someone else’s expense… and this is the polar opposite of what the general public felt immediately after 9/11. Sure, the movers and shakers of the country, the politicians and the deep pockets that pay and play them, were doing their thing back in the aftermath of 9/11 as well… anything to get the economy going, push on and open the doors and the stores, even at the mental and physical health risk to first responders, clean-up crews and residents living in and around Ground Zero–including all those children forced to return to school much too early and who all now suffer from varying degrees of asthma. But the general public? The general public were all in the collective recovery of post-9/11 together. We were all there for each other. We were one. We were even well supported by the international community at levels not seen since perhaps World War II. This level of solidarity is what we are missing today in this country.
Because I believe in something more powerful than myself, my country, or even my world…
- – I humbly pray that generous-minded intelligence rises above and over self-indulgent small-mindedness.
- – I pray that love ultimately wins its endless battle over hate.
- – I pray that whatever trauma it is in this human experience that leaves people giving in to lesser versions of themselves, that leaves them hurting others as much as they themselves have been hurt or fear to be hurt, that this… all this… is someday healed.
- – I pray for all those whose lives have been cut short because of man’s affinity for aggression.
- – I pray for those who suffer mental challenges from the traumas they’ve endured.
- – I pray for those that act out against others, fueled by their own unresolved traumas, that they might seek the help they need.
- – I pray that the honorable and valiant among us—whether man, woman, or child—recognizes that we are lost and has the fortitude to do something about it, who knows there are better ways to address the trauma of this nation and the world and that is to address our issues, listen to each other, and support each other with the only useful weapon we have against aggression, hatred, and perceived otherness… and that is… LOVE.
It’s been many, many years since I’ve felt a post-9/11 level of hope. No years have felt so blatantly empty of that kind of hope than the past three years. But I have to start somewhere. We all do. Let’s start here, today, on this solemn day. Let us pray. Let us hope. Let us be there for each other like we know we should. Let us follow the deep wisdom of our hearts.
If you’d like to be part of the solution and not the problem, The 9/11 Day nonprofit organization is a great place to start getting ideas on how you can spread positive vibes in your community, your state and even nationally, including supporting an effort to establish a national suicide prevention hotline with a 3-digit number like that used for reporting an emergency to police or fire departments. In the meantime, if you need help, you can call the current hotline at: