In the days that followed the events of September 11, 2001, I saw something great and it is something that I will never forget.
I stood in line to give blood. It was something. You see, I was at that moment in time trying to figure out how I could help. What could I do? I figured I could give of myself, literally. So, I gave blood. And so did hundreds of thousands of others across the country in those days. It was something. It was a way to contribute. But it wasn’t the only way.
As a community, we came together. We put our political issues aside and we came together. As Americans. We were changed because of what happened. And in that change we found unity. And that was powerful. But, it was fleeting. Now, we argue in tweets. We can’t stand someone who has a different opinion. And there are headlines about how we’ve forgotten about terrorism. Has life changed that much since that crystal clear blue sky morning 17 years ago?
I imagine that if something as terrible were to happen today, we may act in much the same ways as we did then. And that is a good thing. Yet, why should we even need the terrible to bring the good? Why aren’t we united and working toward a compromise to achieve success? Why do we hate each other so much? Yes, we are all different. And yes, we all bring divergent experiences to the table. But that table, that is America. That is the place where we hash things out. Where we can discuss the merits of single-payer healthcare or an increase in money for infrastructure. That is the place where we can say that it was wrong that only white males could hold property and vote. That is the place where we can go to reevaluate what it means to be American and not suffer any adverse consequences because we are a nation built on freedom.
As Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” That day, 17 years ago, I think the long tail mission of the terrorists was to divide our house and make it so we could no longer meet at the table of ideas, but that we only saw each other in terms of right and wrong.
I fear we are now, more than ever, a house divided. But I am certain that there a way forward. And I am certain that the foundation of that way forward can be built from the memories of those days after the Twin Towers went down when we came together as Americans; when we came together as a family.