“Be bold, courageous, and act…” – King David
So, here we are, on the other side of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on U.S. soil. And today, one very obvious question remains:
In recent weeks, traditional and social media have flooded us with reminders of that day’s horrific events. The nation has paid tribute in countless ways to those lost in the maelstrom. A stunning memorial opened at the World Trade Center site – and our hearts ached for victims’ family and friends, as they publicly paid their respects. Meanwhile, in private conversations across America, we’ve exchanged stories about where we were and how we reacted when time stood still on that fateful morning.
The memory is burned into our individual and collective psyches. And yet…we’re 10 years removed from those moments.
Time to Tune Out?
A lot can change in a decade – especially in a shrinking world, struggling with massive economic and cultural upheaval. And so, we remember the difficult events that temporarily unified us as a nation. But we also must stomach the tremendous discord that has followed – from those who find the War on Terror an ideal springboard for heated political conflict – to those who stir the pot over Muslim rights in a country founded on religious freedom – to those who cling to an array of destructive conspiracy theories.
The noise is enough to make anyone want to tune out. But if 9/11 taught us anything, it taught us this…
We can no longer afford to live in this world with our heads buried in the sand. If we simply choose to ignore what happens around us, the consequences will eventually come knocking on our door. And the force of that knock may be far more of a jolt than we can bear.
Let’s Seek Our “Better Angels”
So, what do I suggest we do, as we begin the NEXT 10 years after 9/11?
Those who know me as a soldier may assume I think the only answer is to fight our way to a solution with military strength. But it’s not that simple.
Perhaps we can learn some lessons from another dark and uncertain time in our nation’s history. At Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address, he offered this wisdom to a country on the brink of civil war:
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
Isn’t it time for us to call upon our “better angels”?
For inspiration, we need look no further than those whose legacy is defined by 9/11:
- Those World Trade Center employees who carried others down the stairs and out to safety.
- Those firefighters and police officers who knew they would likely not survive – but ran into the towers, anyway.
- Those airline passengers who mustered the courage to take down Flight 93′s hijackers when Todd Beamer cried “let’s roll!”
- Those who spent countless hours clearing and restoring the sites of each attack, despite tremendous health risks.
- And those who’ve struggled to recover from devastating physical and emotional trauma of that day.
If we choose a different lens, perhaps it won’t be so hard to find our better angels, after all. They are somewhere inside each of us, just waiting to shine. All we need to do is take a step in the right direction, and allow our actions to make a constructive difference.
If each of us were to choose this path, imagine how much we could accomplish in another 10 years!
It may seem wildly idealistic. But it’s a prescription that allows us to find peace in our hearts – if not in the world.
May we all find the inner strength to act in others’ best interests – and ultimately serve our own.