Sunday, September 11, 2011

Reflecting on 9/11 Ten Years Later: Unity & Civility No More

It is hard to believe it has been 10 years since the World Trade Center attacks.  So much has happened in the world and in my personal life since that moment that it seems much more distant.

I suppose every generation has a few world events that are so personally significant they stand out it photographic detail in peoples' memories -- you can picture where you were and what you were doing at the time with great clarity.  For me there have been three such instances in my lifetime so far:  the assassination of JFK, the moon landing, and the 9/11 attacks.   I note that two of these three are negative events -- a ratio I wish was reversed.

9/11 occurred just a couple of months after my wife and I had moved here to Hawai'i to enjoy our retirement.  Given the time difference between Hawai'i and the East Coast, the attacks had occurred in the early morning hours while we were sleeping.  I had gotten up around 6:30 and as part of my usual routine I was enjoying a cup of coffee while checking email and reading some online news.  It was then that I saw the incredible headlines that the Trade Center had been attacked and had fallen.  At first I thought it was a hoax -- somebody must have hacked into the news website and planted a false story, so I checked many other online news sources, and then turned on the television to find that the story was not only true but even more horrific than I had imagined.  I woke my wife and tried to explain what had happened -- I can still picture the confusion and disbelief on her face.

In the days and weeks that followed there was a heart-warming outpouring of compassion, sympathy and support from people not just in the U.S. but from all parts of the world.  Within the U.S. there was a feeling of unity and national identity that was greater than any other time I can remember, though I suspect older Americans might point to similar reactions connected with WWII.  Political and social differences were secondary to collective concerns of security, mourning, and recovery.

Sadly, the unity and civility of that time seems to have evaporated.  Instead we now have a social climate that is characterized by the divisiveness and intransigence we witness daily among political leaders, many of whom seem to regard compassion as a budget line item to be chopped and programs for the public good as extravagances to be dismantled.

9/11 showed the positive spirit of people in the face of  tremendous adversity.  The spontaneous acts of selflessness and compassion that were commonplace showed that we have the potential to overcome our differences and work for the common good.  I hope it doesn't take another 9/11 to make that potential manifest itself again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading this blog as well as others - As always I enjoy reading your views on different subjects.

Always your Sister