by David and Shadra Bruce
As we approach the date that marks ten years since the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on the United States, we are frequently reminded of the events surrounding the attacks. The images that were dispatched on news stations for days and weeks afterward are once again being reposted and replayed on news stations and across the Internet. We are reminded once again of that which many of us in all likelihood have tried to forget or have at least tucked away safely in the recesses of our unconsciousness. Yet if anything contributes to future attacks on our country, it is this casual ability to escape reality that dooms us to imminent tragedy.
We can help ourselves prevent another similar disaster by remembering that the world in which we live is one that is not just a single vision but a blend of many diverse opinions and visions of what life means. Embracing all of these visions may not be the answer, but making an attempt to accept them might be the only way to truly heal from – and prevent a recurrence of – the events of September 11, 2001. This does not at all imply that we must forgive and forget, but in order to truly heal from within, we must let go of hate for the benefit of ourselves as individuals. Remembering does not mean we must revenge.
We heal inside and benefit from the understanding that extremism – in the name of any faith – corrupts the foundation and the chief intent of a belief structure. Instead of waging war against other cultures and other faiths, determining by force who is right and who is wrong, we can opt to wage a war of peace that allows for the possibility that all of us may be right, that each of our visions demonstrates a measure of truth.
We do not profess to personally know what the truth is, if indeed there is one truth. Nor can we begin to imagine the horror of the events portrayed on the television, when compared with the horror which was truly experienced by those that survived the attacks. We have felt the fear and the anger that most (if not all) Americans felt at the time of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. We will not pretend to put ourselves in their shoes. Few of us will realize or even imagine what they suffered through to survive.
The terrorist attacks of 9/11 have become a platform for others in their bid for political office. Yet the events of 9/11 and those victims and survivors of that tragedy are not the foundation for political gain. These events are not indicative of what any one official did or did not do to prevent the attacks or to facilitate recovery. The tragedy of 9/11 is symbolic of our perception of the world and our place in the global community.
While we mourn the dead, we must also take the time to cherish the living and to recognize the impact these events had on those who did not perish in the attacks. So much time and energy is forfeited for those who are lost to us. We as a people are not altruistic. We do not grieve for their loss; we grieve for our own. Some of us grieve because we were witness to the tragedy and must repeatedly relive the horrific events in our consciousness.
The story of Artie Van Why represents the tragedy that survivors endure as a result of the attacks of 9/11/2001. Those who lost their lives are free; those that survived remain victims of terror. Perhaps we can better serve the memory of those people who lost their lives by saving those who lived through the tragedy. Perhaps we can help heal ourselves in this way, allowing the anger and sorrow to find expression in positive ways.
Rather than pay tribute to those who have lost their lives by seeking vengeance and taking yet more lives, we can pay tribute to those that lost their lives in the attacks of 9/11 by changing how we live today, by realizing the importance of living for today and for our future, as opposed to living in yesterday.
We tend to do that when we mourn: live in yesterday. Absolutely, we must remember those we have lost; we should not sacrifice today, however, in that remembrance, for sacrifice has already been made.
We cannot defeat terrorism with war and counter-terrorism, with anger and vengeance, with politics and gesturing. We must learn to look ahead with wisdom while cherishing the memories of the souls who have passed away and have moved on. We must seek peaceful coexistence and acceptance. Only in this way can we defeat terrorism.
For those that did not survive the attacks on 9/11, may they rest in peace;
for those that did survive, may we all find a way to live in peace.