I don’t think anybody who was aware of what was going on could ever forget that day. But what we seem to have already forgotten is what happened in the days and weeks following 9/11. You see, it wasn’t Democrats or Republicans who were attacked. It wasn’t liberals or conservatives; it wasn’t black lives or police; it wasn’t welfare recipients or millionaires; it wasn’t fat people or skinny people; it wasn’t Muslims, Jews, Christians, or atheists who were attacked. The death toll was high, but still a tiny percentage of our country’s population, yet we knew it was the entire United States of America that had been attacked. And we came together as human beings, and our differences weren’t strong enough to divide what tragedy united.
Once a year we share pictures of buildings and flags, and the rest of the year we tear each other apart. We say not all of our citizens are worthwhile or deserve the same rights; we say those with more struggles and less success are doing something wrong and therefore don’t deserve our help; we shame and insult people who don’t parent, eat, exercise, look, love, or act like us; we attack science and education and religion; we blame and judge entire segments of the population based on the actions of few who appear to share the same traits; we accuse, we distrust, we spit vitriol and death threats from behind the anonymity of the internet; and then we tell people if they don’t like it, they can leave our country.
#NeverForget that we were attacked. More importantly, #NeverForget that we are Americans, and our freedom — even obligation — to speak out does not have to divide us if we remember that our neighbors are not our enemies. None of us are immune — we all have our hot buttons; but if we continually strive to keep our discourse and disagreements respectful and honest, we won’t have to try to remember how it felt when we were truly united. It will be how we live every day.