The 20th Anniversary of September 11th: What Have We Learned From 9/11? by Carrie Watts
Twenty years. It’s a long time. It’s an amount that always sounds so impressive in films and TV shows, when people say how long they’ve been married or worked for the same company. It’s a truly meaningful span of time, one that allows for growth and improvement and enrichment. And yet, 20 years ago this month, we started down a path that has done none of those things.
It feels like I’ve been thinking of this upcoming anniversary forever; it’s been looming over me pretty much since New Year. And now it’s here – 20 years since the World Trade Center fell, the Pentagon was breached and the world changed forever. In one moment, the sense of security and safety I’d always felt within the borders of the United States was gone. September 11th became a tragic marker in the sand, separating, in inescapably surreal ways, before and after.
In the after, there was a fear and uneasiness so palpable and pervasive that the air practically hummed. We lived from one tense moment to the next, afraid to watch the news and afraid to look away. We didn’t know what would come next. It was simply unbearable.
But, just when it was the darkest and scariest, an amazing thing came from this disquiet and unpredictability – we came together. Everyone there was now a New Yorker. We embraced all those whose lives were lost, whatever their nationality. A kindness and compassion I had never previously seen in my years in NYC was now on open display. We took care of each other because we all were hurting so badly. It gave me hope that great things would come out of this unprecedented global and national tragedy, that we would finally stop seeing things as Us vs. Them, that we had finally all had a wake up call on what truly matters. I had so much hope.
For me, personally, that hope was fulfilled. I met my future husband on September 13, as a direct result of air traffic being shut down, and the whole course of my life changed direction. I am a wife, a mother, an immigrant to another country, all because of September 11th. And I know how blessed I am every day to have it all.
How have we, as a nation, spent that time, though? Did we build on the promise and hope of those initial days where we all came together? The sad truth is – no. Those first few days of after saw us find human connection with everyone around us; the next 20 years were about sowing division, hate and fear to justify a costly war.
Twenty years of after. A lifetime, really. And I guess there’s always hope that we will learn from our mistakes and finally make our after better than before.
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