9/11 – A Reflection Eleven Years Later

11 years ago today, I was a kid in highschool, on Long Island, New York. I was about 30 minutes from the city. Around this time in the morning, I was pulled out of science class by family just before the news reached the school. I went home to see the towers on TV crumbling. Over the course of hours, I watched as thousands of people who died; I watched as my friends and classmate’s parents and relatives were killed. I was sheltered away, and didn’t go to class for several days after. This event single-handedly tore apart so many of my classmate’s and neighbor’s lives. And the strife didn’t just stop after the attack. For days, emergency responders, firemen, police men, etc, were going into the rubble and trying to save lives, and many of these brave men and women also died, either immediately or years later from inhaling all of the toxic substances during that period.
I was just a child, it was hard for me to wrap my head around the magnitude of what just happened just so incredibly close by. Its still hard for me to understand how many lives were irreparably changed because of that one day when I was 14.
9/11 was a terrible and horrible tragedy, the likes of which America rarely sees. But it is sadly not a very rare tragedy. This sort of attack happens all too frequently around the world. Look at Syria alone, where an estimated 30,000 people have died during the Syrian Civil War. The way we as a nation responded to the situation over the past 11 years was extreme. We started 2 wars that specifically were not paid for in order to get revenge. Stores around America took up the slogan “Buy a car or the terrorists win.” We went from a several trillion dollar surplus to a massive deficit. We turned international opinion on us in many cases. Even us Americans started mocking ourselves, with movies like “Team America: World Police.”
There was a great deal of good that came after the attacks as well. We, a nation of diverse individuals, came together in many way. There was a sense of unity and patriotism among a broad range of people. And this was because we all had a shared experience of suffering. Everyone could empathize with everyone else about what happened. People from Texas to New York were brought together and supported each other. Massive amounts of food and resources were funneled from around the country to those suffering the most. Even if a particular person did not lose a love one, one of their loved ones probably had. Everyone had suffered directly or indirectly from the terrible attack, and it drew us as a community closer.
Some of my frequent readers might recognize an expression in my last paragraph, the “shared experience of suffering.” The fact that every person went through this tragedy, we came together and supported each other. As a transsexual woman, this is the same principle I describe when I am asked why makes the LGBT community different. We have all endured oppression and discrimination. We empathize with eachother because we each have dealt, directly or indirectly, with suffering and tragedy.
Eleven years after 9/11/01, I think it is important to look back and reflect on what happened. We are all just individuals in this nation, but it is our choice whether to follow the path of revenge and anger, or the path of unity and empathy. Or maybe we shouldn’t pick one or the other, and continue moving forward doing both at once?

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