Forward Progress

As everyone in the world knows (due to an annual media blitz), today marks the 13th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack to ever happen on American soil. September 11, 2001 will live in our collective minds as the darkest day in United States History–hopefully forever. I don’t want to live in a place¬†where the horror surpasses that of 9/11, so I fervently hope to never see a world where we live in more fear than we did, that day.

We’ve spent thirteen years rehashing the stories, remembering the heroes and those that died so tragically, and needlessly. I wasn’t in New York, and I didn’t know anyone that was. I was in the hospital, in pre-term labor with my second child. I was terrified for my baby’s survival, already, when the planes struck, and that juxtaposition of the horror outside–in the stark, unforgiving world–and the war that my own body was fighting against me, will always be a part of my life story. It will always be a part of my son’s life story, even though he was not even born on the events of that day.

My son is now going from a boy, to a man, and as such transitions tend to be–some days are harder than others. He is nearly as tall as I am, and his shoulders grow broader, each day. Some days, he is sweet and kind-hearted, offering hugs and help–a bigger, stronger version of the little boy I’ve always known. And some days, his fuse is short and his grudges are long. His sense of fairness is skewed, and the ribcage that protects his heart from hurt is thin and inconsequential. In short, he is learning how to navigate the world–how to be a citizen of the world. He is learning how to treat others, and how he wants to be treated. He is becoming something other than he was.

I’d like to think that our thoughts on 9/11 are becoming other, as well.

I’d like to think that as a nation–as a world–we can begin to move past fear and hatred. That we have grown enough to see that a small, non-representative group of extremists do not represent a greater culture. I’d like to think that we can remember and memorialize those that lost their lives, that day, without a renewed call to arms and bile and venom and mistrust. I’d like to think optimistically.

We live in a world full of ugliness and violence. Ferguson. Ray Rice. ISIS. Unrest and war and pain. Control and domination and abuse of power. The United States feels divided and broken–us vs. them–like some schoolyard rumble.

And yet, I see so much hope for the future. I see my children making friends with people from a diverse number of cultures, and backgrounds. I see women rising up and being recognized as capable, admirable leaders of society. I see marriage equality winning the day. I see the discussion for an ecologically sound America moving forward. I see America, growing.

September 11, 2001 was a dark, terrible day, and the deeds done on that day–both heroic and villainous–were epic in proportion. Those that did wrong, that day, did unforgivable wrongs, and those that risked themselves–those that died, needlessly–they will always be heroes in our collective memories. But I believe that we–as a nation, as a culture, as a species–must move forward. We must make progress. We must continue to grow, and change. Our transformation is not complete.

The United States is–in the scheme of world history–merely a teenager. We do not always respond to situations with the best possible response. In regards to September 11th, we are all, quite literally, teenagers, now. It is time that we begin to see the entire picture. Let go of our grudge against those that are only associated with the villains in this tale through cultural and religious ties–those that reject extremism and wish, like us, for a better world.

I, for one, plan to remember those that lost their lives, thirteen years ago. I plan to honor them by continuing to hope and pray for forward progress for humanity. And though the ribcage that protects our heart is thin, and vulnerable–the bones newly knitted back together–I have hope.