Today, as we remember the tragic events that occurred on 9/11/01, I wanted to write some of my thoughts down. I have thought most of these things for the last 15 years and am only now coming to realize that they need to be said, if only to help finally release some of my built up thoughts. I’d like to just mention that I’m not writing this for anyone but myself. Over the years, I have seen and noticed a build up of emotion and opinion in myself about our country and our world, and I believe a lot of that stemmed from the events of 9/11 and how they shaped my once innocent outlook on our world into what it has now become.
9/11 did affect me. It affected me greatly. I was just a 7 year old little girl getting ready for my first day of Girl Scouts when my mom turned on the television and began to cry. “What? What happened? What is it?” I can imagine myself asking her. My mom didn’t explain much to me, but I do remember my dad pulling in the driveway and running inside, also crying. He and my mom just sat and stared at the TV for a long time. I don’t remember what happened for the rest of the day. I don’t remember how my parents explained it to me, but I do remember how I felt.
I remember that from that day forward, I was acutely aware of the fact that there really was evil in the world. I grew up in an LDS family. I knew about Satan and the fact that he was always trying to make people unhappy and commit sins. I also knew that there were “bad” people out there in the world, but that superficial knowledge was all I had to go off of. But I remember in that moment and as the days and weeks passed, I, as a small 7 year old girl, could not help but wonder at how people could be so cruel. My parents helped me see the positive things in the months that passed, such as people’s faith being strengthened and the nation coming together. But I could not shake that initial thought from my mind.
I never knew anyone who was personally in New York during 9/11. In fact, only a few weeks ago I met the first person I know of in my life who had been in New York that day. But 9/11 still affected me greatly.
I am an extremely patriotic person. I can attribute that partly to my parents, and I will admit that for many of my middle and high school years, I didn’t know much about politics and just parroted a lot of the things I heard them talking about in the house. However, as the years went on, I got more curious. As far as 9/11 goes, I haven’t gone a single year without watching some sort of tribute, documentary, or at least a few Youtube videos on the topic. And as far as politics, I have tried my best as I’ve grown up, to be neutral and learn as much as I can about the world around us. I have tried to see the issues from not my conservative lenses, but from my human lenses. But this post is not about my opinions on political issues.
What this post is about is freedom. It is about security. It is about evil and good in this world. It is about how a 7 year old girl had to grow up a little more knowing her country was being attacked. It is about how thousands of little boys and girls all over the world are having to grow up fast for a lot worse. It is about the lives lost that day and in wars around the world.
I love this world. But I really, really love my country. Having lived in both Chile and Mexico (where I am currently living), I have seen the other side of our borders. I have seen what it is like for people not to live the way we do. And I love what our country stands for. I love what it has always represented. I love how the United States stands as a beacon of hope and strength, even when it is being attacked. I love how when I watch the movie United 93, the American people had the courage to fight back. They knew they were going to die and they did their best to save our country’s leaders.
On 9/11, 15 years ago, we all saw something that we didn’t think could happen on our soil. A deliberate and violent attack that took almost 3000 lives. And what did we do? We came together as a country. We prayed together and went to church. We hugged our families a little harder and made sure not to leave the house in a bad mood. We smiled at strangers and became unified. Now? Look at us! Look at where we are. Police brutality is growing at scary rates. Mass shootings seem to happen once a week. ISIS is more and more a part of our everyday news. Our politicians are all corrupt and selfish people who are dividing our country. And we are not coming together. We are not praying together, or uniting as a country. In fact, we’ve never been so divided.
I think that my fascination with 9/11 isn’t so much a fascination as it is a chance for me, at least once a year, to not only justify watching those videos (and maybe cry a little…), but to reflect on how I felt that day and how things have changed. We aren’t as shocked at mass killings in our own country as we used to be. After 9/11, Almost all of us couldn’t get it out of our minds for months. But now? For example, after the killings in Orlando did we sit and think about it for months? Did we rewatch the footage dozens of times? Will we remember it in years to come? I don’t know. 9/11 hit me hard, but the changes in our country are hitting me harder.
9/11 was a horrible tragedy that breaks my heart to remember. I cry watching videos of loved ones recounting their last moments with their mothers or sons. And I love my country even more for it. I am proud to be an American in those moments.
Right now I live in Mexico, during a time when being an American in Mexico is not very popular. And you know what? I’m still proud to be an American. And I sat and watched 9/11 videos all day today and remembered and cried and loved my country. But I am not proud of what America is becoming.
So here are my final thoughts. To those of us who are still patriotic, and maybe those same people who put the #neverforget on Facebook along with a few passive posts about 9/11, we need to do more than just not forget. I haven’t forgotten for 15 years. But never forgetting something requires an action. It requires change. It requires more than just passive Facebook posts. It requires love. We have to start loving each other again. Praying again. Stopping racism and bigotry and hatred of others’ beliefs. We have to be patriotic again. Stand up for our country again. Stick up for our founding fathers and the bases of this wonderful nation again. We have to fight for our freedoms again. We have to fight for our Constitution again. Vote for good people and bring faith and family and love back into the United States of America. We are called that for a reason right? We are supposed to be United, but I couldn’t feel more divided. 9/11, we will always remember you. But I promise that I will continue to fight and push for that “after 9/11” feeling we once had. I know we can be United States again.