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Growing up, I remember my parents talking about knowing exactly where they were the day Kennedy was shot. It seemed strange to me that a whole generation knew exactly where they were standing at a moment in time.
That is, until September 11, 2001.
After that, I understood exactly what they had experienced. I remember waking up to my college roommate saying something crazy was on the news. And we skipped class that morning to watch it all unfold.
September 11th not only changed the Manhattan skyline, it left its mark on our psyche as well.
What Are You Going to Remember Today?
September 11th was traumatic and it is understandable that many of us reacted in fear. The problem with fear is that if you indulge it for too long, it will make your world smaller. How many times do you need to be burned by the fire before you never let yourself enjoy a roasted marshmallow again?
As terrible as 9/11 was, it was a shared experience. And shared difficulty can be a beautiful thing because it brings people together. After 9/11 the suicide rate in New York actually went down. The same phenomenon happened during the London Blitz in World War II.
And although September 11th was a tragedy, I believe it was also a gift because it gave us all a shared experience. For a while we became one – we were all New Yorkers. I didn’t visit New York after 9/11, but I’ve heard many people talk about how the city changed in the months after the attack. It felt like a friendlier place, a community where everyone cared about their neighbor’s well being.
September 11th is a day we set aside for remembering. But what are we forgetting? It’s important to honor and not forget those that made the ultimate sacrifice that day. And I believe one of the best ways to do that is to not forget the lessons that came out of it.
Since 9/11, the internet and social media have quickly crept into every corner of our lives. It’s now easier to build connections – or to isolate yourself – than ever before in human history. With all the benefits of the internet, there is a price to pay. It’s easier than ever to live in an echo chamber where you never have to engage with an opinion that’s different from what you believe.
It’s easy to create an “us” and a “them” and separate ourselves.
Living on social media makes it feel like we’re more divided then we’ve ever been. And yet, every time I manage to get out from behind my screen and have a real conversation with another person, I can’t help but think the world is filled with all sorts of kind and caring people.
So today, when we’re remembering the pain and loss, let’s not forget we don’t have to wait for the next traumatic event to start caring about the people around us.
Maybe the guy in the next cubicle or the girl in the upstairs apartment have vastly different opinions than you. Maybe they’re even “wrong.” But you can be wrong and still be a good person.
And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my short life, it’s that being together is better than being right.