When I was a baby, doctors said I would never walk. My parents didn’t listen and they found a surgeon who was willing to help us and I did develop the ability to walk. I looked like a drunken, pregnant chimpanzee, but I walked.
Throughout my life, I think I’ve taken the word “never” as an indication that I should just try harder to succeed at whatever the person was telling me I could never do.
My own (lack of) response
In the last 10 years, I’ve struggled with my personal response to 9/11 because I never had that instant feeling or horror, of grief. It took several years for that to sit in, I think. I was getting ready for work that day 10 years ago and got a call from my mom, asking if I was watching “this.” I turned to the TV and saw burning buildings and literally thought to myself, “wow, some other country has buildings that look just like the Twin Towers, how weird!” I just assumed that a terrorist attack with giant burning buildings would be in some other country, some other place. It never occurred to me that I was witnessing something live from New York City.
Throughout the day, you can betcha that the TV was on and our entire newsroom there in Miami, Okla. was glued to it, even while doing our tasks. We were all frantically finding ways to localize the story, to help our readers see how this affected them even so far away. A big part of my job in the next week was to try and get a hold of people who were from that area who were now living in New York or were in the military and therefore affected as well. I also was talking to the local schools about how they were handling the tragedy.
I don’t know if it was the busyness of it all or the sheer fact that it always felt like it happened “somewhere over there” but I never broke down and cried about the events that day. I have since been able to show emotion about it all, but it’s rare. It’s not that I’m unfeeling, and I’m definitely not in denial anymore. I think it’s so enormous, that I feel it so deeply, that my heart and mind can’t grasp it enough to be able to show a quantifiable emotion. Even 10 years later, individual stories make me cry but my mind just “stops” when it tries to capture the big picture.
My own Say Nevers from 9/11
I believe the firm message behind the attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001 were about more than “just” killing thousands of people. They were about instilling fear. About taking away our way of life. About shaking and even destroying our faith, our ideals. The terrorists wanted to destroy America not only in that moment, but in the thousands of moments to follow.
From the moment those events happened and I realized what the enemy was trying to accomplish, it made me angry. It made me determined to not let them win. To not let them say “never do this.” I was going to continue my life…I was going to shop, go out to eat, love America and our military, celebrate patriotism… so on and so forth.
At first glance this week, I felt like I’ve done nothing to really advance the ideals that I was so passionate about 10 years ago after the attacks. Sure, I lived my life, but so did everyone else. It felt so… passive. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to fight the enemy that was so dead set against me, us having a life that we wanted to live.
Then it hit me. Although none of my actions in the last 10 years have been in response to or because of the events of 9/11, I think I’ve accomplished my own personal fight against what they were trying to do. In the last 10 years, I’ve:
- Been a woman who lived independently, drove a car, had a career and managed my own finances
- Been a woman who fell in love with a man of my choosing, got married and am in a happy, monogamous, non-abusive marriage
- Been a woman who turned back to God and found a faith in a personal Savior that I’ve never known before
- Been a woman who has been vocal about my ideals and who fights valiantly, even if behind the scenes, for what I believe.
So where are we now?
We always say “Never Forget” and everyone knows that references 9/11. But have we not already forgotten? Has that phrase not in some ways become a trite statement that people say and don’t really think about what it means?
This is the part where I wonder how much to say. In a lot of ways, I think America has fought back and won. We remember the events of that day, at least sort of. We remember what it was like to have a group try to take away our freedoms and our ideals…mostly.
I feel like since 9/11 we are still hurting, still stumbling around in the dark a little bit to see where we are as a country. My fear and ultimately my belief is that if we continue in the current vein, the enemy will in fact win. Think about it. In those first few weeks, the country truly did join together. We returned to church, to seeking God for answers to the tragedy. Yes, there was some senseless backlash against innocent Muslims that shouldn’t have happened, but overall we had a healthy response to the tragedy. We were valiant, determined, seeking solace.
Since then, it feels like we’ve lost our way. Instead of turning to God for answers, we call people who do so “intolerant.” In a country where we proclaim religious freedom, the very faith that most of our founding fathers wanted the freedom to exhibit on their own terms is cast away in every manner possible. Those who believe in God are trivialized and demonized.
We are so worried about security and the potential threat from a few that we terrorize the many who are just trying to get on a plane. Does all the new measures make you feel more safe? Not me. It actually makes me feel more tense and paranoid. Whereas I used to worry about the plane falling out of the sky, I’m now wondering if the granny next to me is really a terrorist operative in disguise who wants to blow up the plane.
It feels like in an effort to be all-inclusive or to not lose our freedoms in one fell swoop to an unknown enemy, we are instead willing to give away our freedoms and ideals slowly over time. Either way, we’re losing what we had.
A few final thoughts
I could go on and on but I think I’ve made my point. I think America is stronger in some ways but in others has made herself weaker. We’ve done the classic trying so hard to not be one thing negative that we’ve opened ourselves up to a whole new level of dangerous and unhealthy.
But you know what? This is still America. We are a country of fighters, of people who seek new ideas and are not afraid. I believe we have the potential to be a stronger, greater country.
Even more importantly to me, God is still God. So if the country goes by the wayside, if we give away our freedoms slowly out of fear of having them stolen, then that’s our choice. God is still God and he is in control.
That, my friends, I will never forget.