9/11/2001~Looking Ahead

I lived in Northern New Jersey until 1981 and can remember my visits to New York City. I enjoyed watching the progress of the Twin Towers being built.  Once the World Trade Center was complete, my family and I enjoyed eating at the restaurant at the top of the tower, Windows on the World. I have wonderful memories of this place.

If you were alive on 9/11/2001, you probably join me in remembering exactly where you were when the news hit of the vicious attack on the World Trade Center.  I was in a meeting. I distinctly remember the feeling of blood leaving my head; the sense of horror was overwhelming. The meeting was quickly dispersed; we left in silence to return to our schools.

Like everyone else, I sat glued to my television watching the endless newsfeed reporting this attack on American soil. However, for the purpose of this post, I want to focus on the aftermath, I want to remember the America of September 12, 2001. 

Once we began to recover from the numbing sense of shock and grief, the strong, fighting spirit of our ancestors soared. American flags flew everywhere! We put everything aside in order to rally our support for the citizens of New York City, the victims’ families, and the heroic passengers on Flight 93.  

In that tragic moment, our country came together in a way I had not seen in my lifetime.  We were passionately unified and fiercely focused on sending the message that we would not be defeated. Across this nation, we proudly flew American flags, held hands while singing patriotic anthems, and knelt in prayer at houses of worship without regard for denomination. 

September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday.  That Friday, September 14th, I clearly remember gathering around the flagpole with staff and students at our elementary school. We joined hands to sing America the Beautiful, our national anthem, “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood and other patriotic anthems. All 850 students were waving small flags, everyone was dressed in red, white, and blue, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.  

If we look back through history, I believe we will spot a pattern. Our patriotism is never more front and center than when we feel under attack; we put aside race, religion, politics, and economic differences in order to wave our flag in the face of the enemy. 

It seems to me that we Americans are really no different than a big family.  I remember being fifteen and so frustrated by my ten year old sister. That is, until someone else commented that my sister was a pest.  Suddenly, my sister was perfect and my focus shifted to this perceived attacker.  Yes, the old saying, “I can talk about my family, but you can’t!” is true.

I have gotten to the point today where I dread looking at social media because it is filled with hateful political rants. Our country is broken and divided.  I see women pitted against men, anger manifesting itself in racial division, politicians debating with vicious rhetoric, and violence in places where we should feel safe.  

America is gloriously full of diverse and imperfect people. Each and every one of us has a story; it is this story that forms who we are, what we think, how we feel, and our vision of the world. Let’s communicate about our differences; that means we both talk and LISTEN!  I guess today my prayer is that we can all tap into the love and pride we felt for our country on September 12, 2001 without having to first endure another tragic event.

Author: Jennifer C. Walts, Ed.D.

I am a retired educator and School Improvement Specialist.

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