Remembering 9/11—20 years later

20 years later remembering 9/11 is still relevant. Today we should each spend some time remembering the day with gratitude for those who worked so hard to save those in the twin towers. 

For most people, remembering 9/11/01 is about remembering where they were when they first heard the news. It is easy to recall it since it was such a shocking day filled with tragedy after tragedy and while most felt numb that day, recall of the event now includes emotions of great sadness, grief, despair, and anger. The many days of confusion that followed 9/11/01 are more fog compared to the moment in which you first heard the news. That moment is embedded into your memory as if it was yesterday, stirring up a mixture of both old and new emotions. With each passing year, the memory refuses to fade as new memories are implanted into your head; instead, it remains a solidly fixed and sober event.

Remembering 9/11

But remembering 9/11/01 should not be so selfish. It should not be about remembering where you were or who you were with or how you felt. The people who committed the acts of terrorism on 9/11/01 were the selfish ones thinking only of their beliefs, their cause, their feelings, and their goal. On that day, the terrorists focused solely on their agenda at the great expense of the lives of others. No, this day, Patriot’s Day, should not a selfish day but rather a day in which we all remember one another and the sacrifices that were given both willingly and unwillingly. For many gave their life, some had their life stolen, thousands of families were impacted and others worked tirelessly to save lives and clean up the debris. For those individuals, this day has a different meaning as it was not just a national event, it was personal and it forever changed them as such.

Remember them

Have you ever had to clean up after a disaster? Maybe you have been in a natural disaster where things are suddenly not where they belong and destroyed beyond repair. Or maybe you have had a smaller event such as a pipe bursting or a two-year-old on a rampage through your house. While it is frustrating to see things get so out of place in such a short time, it can be even more frustrating to put things back together again. Remember those who worked after 9/11/01 cleaning up an unbelievable mess day after day only to discover an even greater mess beyond the surface. The amount of discouragement must have been overwhelming, yet they kept going year after year. For these individuals, 9/11/01 is not just a day; it is a series of events forever embedded into their current memory. And while they unselfishly gave of themselves to accomplish a task, they continue to give of themselves through the memories which repeatedly traumatize them.

Thank them

These unselfish individuals deserve your thanks and gratitude for a sacrifice that hopefully you can only imagine but will never fully know from experience. For most of them, recognition and thanks is nice but they did not do it for that reason. Rather, they had a job to do and chose to do well. Every day you have a choice to just do your job and get by with as little effort as possible or you can choose to do your job well and like the heroes of 9/11/01 do it beyond expectation. The heroes had a choice and it is obvious by the outcome that they put aside their selfish desires and chose to live a life of service to others. It is easier to say a thank you but so much harder to live by the example that was set before you of excellence.

Be them

In the end, you have a choice. It does not matter what your job is, who your family is, where you come from, or what your circumstances are in life, you still have a choice. You have a choice to live a life that is selfish and focused on yourself or to live a life that is selfless and focused on others. The terrorists made their choice; it was one of complete and total selfishness. Some of the people who lost their life on that day did not have a choice; rather it was stolen from them. But some of the people who lost their life on that day did have a choice; it was one of selflessness. You too have a choice in how you live your life. Are you going to be selfish like the terrorists or selfless like the heroes? Remembering 9/11 will bring clarity on this.

What a truly monumental day 9/11/01 would be if the long-term outcome was a nation filled with individuals who became selfless instead of selfish. For a few years following that day, there was a glimmer of hope that selflessness would be the final outcome however as the events of that day turn more selfish and focused on remembering where you were instead of remembering who perished, the hope faded. But you still have a choice; you can choose on this Patriot’s Day to remember others and the sacrifices they gave and continue to give or you can choose instead to remember yourself and how you felt. Choose wisely because the outcome will determine the destination of our next generation.

Chris Hammond is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern at LifeWorks Group w/ over 15 years of experience as a counselor, mentor & teacher for children, teenagers & adults.

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