“Quick! Turn on the TV!”
Aware that I rarely turn on the television in the morning, a friend called urgently, knowing I’d want to be watching. An approximate hour later, witnessing the South Tower fall, the concept of “want to be watching” was furthest from my mind. Each of us remembers what we thought, felt, and did that fateful day.
In anticipation of today’s 11th anniversary, my young son asked me over the weekend if I thought 911 could ever happen again. “We’ve learned from it, right?” Great question, he asked. Some days I wonder what we’ve actually learned.
Besides learning we need to allow for a little more time getting through airports, we’ve learned a few things that seem incredibly monumental…
… like how when push comes to shove, Americans will work together…
(Then again, with push actually coming to shove in each of the succeeding elections, it seems even our leaders only push and shove harder — especially with their language.)
… like how it’s important that we refrain from ramping up the rhetoric and utilizing words of war or terror when the situation is not about war or terror…
(I heard that once after Arizona’s Rep. Gabby Giffords was shot, although with the so-called, ongoing rhetorical “war on women,” we haven’t exactly learned that yet.)
… like how within the radical branches of Islam, there exists a significant people group that desires the destruction of both America and Americans…
(Oooh… I used to believe that, although it’s fascinating to me that in the Fort Hood shooting — where the murderer was a 39 year old devout Muslim who shouted “Allahu Akbar” — “God is great” — before opening fire — our U.S. Justice Dept. still identifies the incident as “workplace violence” as opposed to “domestic terrorism.”)
… like how evil exists on planet Earth…
(Not sure we’re good at this one; we don’t like to acknowledge evil… except sometimes, in leaders who seem intelligent but who totally disagree with us…)
“We’ve learned from it, right?”
I’d like to believe that we have.
I’d like to believe 911 could never happen again.
But I couldn’t look my young son in the eye and answer him as affirmatively as I desired. I have no wish to damper the hope and confidence of our younger generations going forward.
Yet our challenge is obvious…
The more time that passes after a traumatic event, the more numb we become to the profound learnings.
No wise man wishes for tragedy; but all wise men learn from tragedy.
From 911 we learned about the preciousness of life, the beauty of self-sacrifice, the attractiveness of heroism, and the gift of a nation that loves each other well… in how they act and how they think and how they treat one another.
The challenge is that the learnings don’t always stick. We forget what we have learned.
“Have we learned from it, son? Yes. We have learned much…”
But do we remember what we’ve learned? That is a far better question.