Missed Opportunity

I spent the eleventh anniversary of Nine-Eleven cloistered in my office, replacing the hard drive on my desktop computer and restoring everything from a system image.  It was probably just as well.  It is one of those days that I know I need to remember but not in too much detail.  I don’t need to listen to jaded news people or politicians tell me how it changed our lives here in the United States forever.  I don’t need to hear one more rote salute to the first responders who died trying to save others or see the Towers come down again.  It is all deeply etched in my heart.  It was a day that a fifty-seven year old man who’d grown up in the days of backyard fallout shelters and endured the Cuban missile crisis realized the world was a more dangerous place than he’d imagined.   It was a day on which watching crowds of Palestinians celebrate the slaughter of innocents shifted both my belief in humanity and my opinion of a culture for the worse.   It was the only time I can remember crying for my country and I didn’t cry alone.

Whether it is the result of natural selection or a Grand Design, I have no doubt that nothing brings us together like shared tragedy, whether it’s loss of a loved one or an unnatural disaster.  And it not only brings us together, it opens us up … opens our hearts, if you will … in a way that nothing else does.  And an open heart is capable of remarkable changes for the better.  Haven’t you ever noticed how some families are at their best at a funeral or how cancer patients suddenly become spiritual?  But we need to be attentive at such times because just as good things like compassion and faith can walk into an open heart, they can also walk out, leaving bitterness and cynicism in charge   Or we can just endure the pain while the heart gradually closes, changing nothing.

As a nation of people, our collective heart was open after Nine-Eleven.  We sang America the Beautiful together, eyes glistening with tears.  We waved flags and chanted USA.  I saw a love of country that I hadn’t seen in a long time.  Politicians stopped bickering and spoke of unity.  Jay Leno dropped his nightly skewering of President Bush and even Mr. Snide, Dave Letterman, scaled back his New York Liberal monologues.  United We Stand was everywhere.  Over the next few years, our collective heart slowly closed again but not before United We Stand slipped out in the dark of night.  As I look around at the way things are as this election approaches, the partisan squabbling and our lack of respect for differing opinions, it’s hard not to conclude that the biggest tragedy of Nine-Eleven is that we didn’t take the opportunity to stay united.  That is a shame because a tragedy is just a tragedy unless we make it something more.

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3 Comments on “Missed Opportunity”

  1. I’m nodding. I’m just nodding. Amen.

  2. Definitely do agree with your assessment of things.

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