Three years ago I wrote about my September 11th. This anniversary is still fraught for me. I am still angry and confused and bereft. At 7am this morning I snapped on the radio in our bathroom just as the headlines were beginning. The lead story was the one year anniversary of the Benghazi attacks with no mention of the attacks in 2001 that served as inspiration. In fact, September 11th, 2001 was the 5th or 6th story of the day. I stood in the shower and wept, filled with rage that the twelfth anniversary of the attacks didn’t even make the equivalent of the front page of Morning Edition. My in-laws are visiting and brought home the New York Times. The attacks didn’t make it to the actual front page either.
If I’m honest my own experience of the day is different than it used to be. For the last several days I haven’t been filled with dread, the day has not been playing on a loop in my mind non-stop like it used to as a buildup to the anniversary. I am so far from the 24 year old girl who walked through September 11th that I can barely recognize her.
Time relentlessly and heartlessly marches on. One of the central events of my life is becoming a national footnote. Should it? Does it make more sense to concentrate on the tragedy in Benghazi last year? Or the crisis with Syria? Or the struggling economy? What should we be remembering on September 11th?
Maybe it is time for me to let go of the anger and fear that define this day for me. I had a front seat to an attack on our nation. Maybe it is time to feel proud that my beliefs in America were not shaken.
I still believe we are a great nation some days and we have the potential to be much greater. I believe that the Constitution is an extraordinary and beautiful and sophisticated document that has matured alongside the nation. I believe in freedom and self determination and representative democracy (or a constitutional republic if you are getting all technical). I believe that the founding fathers would be outraged to learn that the American Government engaged in torture because then ends do not justify the means. We are better than than! We must be better than that! I believe that freedom comes at a cost, that sometimes we will be attacked in terrible ways, but our response must never be internment camps or racial profiling or attacks on religions that scare us because we cannot see through our ignorance and fear to the difference between extremists and god fearing people who are different from us.
Over the last twelve years I have been terribly disappointed in America. Some of the reactions of hatred and vengeance have made me wonder if Osama bin Laden did win that day, if he did show that we are less than we claim to be. But I still have hope. I hope that we can do better as a country and show the world that freedom and equality and compassion are the right way to live.
We have a long way to go at home-with rights for minorities, the LGBT community, pay equality for women. We need to care for our own by making health insurance available, by raising the minimum wage, by making sure that the disenfranchised are able to participate in our political system by voting.
In this one area of my life I choose to be an optimist. I believe America has been great, occasionally still is great, and will be great. After living through September 11th in 2001 I could have let the grief make me small. But guess what terrorists? Fuck you. You lose. Because I believe in my country. And you know what? So many of the New Yorkers I know who also lived through that day do as well. And as an added bonus we are smart enough to understand that Muslim does not equal terrorist. We will not fear someone based on the color of their skin. And we will try to convince our fellow countrymen that freedom is the goal. That indulging our fear equals defeat.
So fuck you. Fuck. You. You haven’t defeated me and millions of people like me.
And friends, remember to vote. That is where we can make a difference.
None of us knows what is going to happen tomorrow or next week or next year. The best we can do is love what we have now. This morning I loved my three guys in this unseasonably hot weather as we took a couple of minutes to spend together before embarking on our day.
We were safe because Voltron was there to protect us.