Today is the 9th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11th. Most of us remember exactly where we were at the very moment we heard the news. I was at work with the little start up company I’d joined just a few weeks earlier. I remember frantically hitting refresh on my computer to see updates online. Then I started calling my friends in New York to see if they were ok. I got no answer for days. Some of their commutes took them dangerously close to Ground Zero. My old company NJ offices were directly across the water from the two towers. They had a front row seat as the towers fell. Some former colleagues had left and now worked in the twin towers, had they made it out? A friend from childhood worked as a contractor at the Pentagon, was she safe? Another friend was in the military stationed at one of the potential "next targets" being discussed on the news. His wife was in hysterics for days, fearing her husband was "next". Dear friends had just left the country on their honeymoon, would they be able to get back home? They called me from Europe to ask me to check on some of my fellow wedding party members who lived in NYC. They couldn’t get through from Europe and needed to know their friends were ok. It was a terrifying few days. Thankfully no one I knew was killed or injured, but people I know lost friends and family. In an instant, they were gone. Taken from us in an act of terrorism and hatred.
I remember driving home from work that day listening to updates on the radio and seeing all the American flags flying on the downtown connector in Atlanta. I sat there in traffic and realized that even on that very day while we were all still in shock, the terrorists had already lost. They had managed to completely UNITE the American populace. I’ve carried that hope in my heart for all these years and will never forget that image.
In these politically charged times I think its also right to point out that after September 11th, not a single mosque in New York was ever under the type of scrutiny that the "Ground Zero" mosque is under right now. No idiots were threatening to burn Qurans out of ignorance and hate. We were all united as a people, regardless of religion or ethnicity. Lets remember that feeling today. 9 years have passed and some people have found it easier to hate rather than to remember that sense of unity we all felt at that time. America was founded on principals of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and above all else, personal freedoms. The terrorists who continuously threaten us are afraid of that freedom because its banned in their own countries. Don’t sully that by falling into the trap of ignorance or misinformation. Discuss the points around these controversial topics (like the Ground Zero mosque) with a fair mind. Not all Muslims are terrorists. Not everyone wearing a turban is a Muslim (A friend who was an Indian Sikh was attacked just because of the way he looked). Not all Christians are KKK members or crazed Quran burning zealots. Life is not black and white, its a whole lot of gray. Everyone has a right to their opinion, but on a day like today, focus on what we all have in common rather than the differences. These topics are controversial and many have strong opinions, but when you strip away the bigotry, anger, and fear mongering, whats left to discuss? That is what we should focus on.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of those who lost loved ones on this day 9 years ago. We will never forget and I can only hope that the lessons learned from this tragic day in history will turn out to be positive in the long run. God bless America. God bless our freedoms. God bless those we lost and who we have lost since that day in the fight to protect our freedoms.