Seventeen years to the day. Each year, we relive, mourn, remember and honor. Each year, I think, cry, grapple and write. Each year, I pray that time will heal, peace will prevail, unity will triumph, understanding will be universal, despite an inability to bring back lives lost, reverse devastation or repair destruction. September 11, 2001 fundamentally and forever shifted you and me, individuals, families, communities, cities, industries, countries, our world — socially, politically, mentally, economically, spiritually, legally, in all ways.
"If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate,” to quote Sandy Dahl, the wife of Flight 93 pilot, Jason Dahl.
We. Will. Never. Forget. Nor be terrorized, divided or broken. We will not cower in fear or find ourselves consumed by violence or buy into a rhetoric of hate. We will neither live in perpetual panic, nor succumb to extremism.
We dare to choose love, unity, inclusion. We live with dignity, passion, love and purpose. We are strong, diverse, courageous. We champion peace, service, action. We thank the heroes among us who protect and serve in visible and invisible ways, on the front lines and behind the scenes, professionally and in moments of need, in a multitude of uniforms and roles, at home and overseas.
We stand with those who sacrificed their physical safety to save a life, those who relive the traumas in mind and body daily or on painful anniversaries like today, those who face terrible health repercussions as a result of being at ground zero or near impact, those whose loved ones were taken cruelly on September 11th and in its aftermath. You are not and will never be alone, neglected or forgotten. You have our eternal, unwavering respect as dear brothers and sisters.
I remember the fateful day as if it were yesterday — and recall slightly different pieces each year. My father’s crack of dawn phone call dropped the truly unbelievable news like a bomb to paralyzing disbelief on my mother's face — and then the flood of escalating tears, alarm, hysteria, fright as the magnitude and severity of the unfolding tragedy set in. Then the phone calls to loved ones in New York City, first those who worked in lower Manhattan, even in the Towers themselves. Then the questions about what was still unfolding with incomplete breaking news. Then the fear of further attacks on the West Coast as snipers descended upon the Golden Gate Bridge and military planes circled overhead, the threat of war that would put American troops in harm’s way for a still-unforeseen period of time, the gratitude for unparalleled bravery of selfless first responders, the mourning of nearly 3,000 innocent, beautiful lives lost on American soil, the unbreakable strength of a nation even in the face of horrific tragedy.
I wish that today were just another Tuesday, that the unfathomable events of September 11, 2001 had never taken place, that the root causes of violence and evil were eradicated from the face of the globe, that people honored human dignity in one another. But that is not anywhere near the reality in which we live. And thus, I recommit to the work that needs to be done to champion understanding, build bridges, serve fellow humankind, express love, find common ground here among citizens of the United States of America and the world over. I feel a renewed depth of gratitude for my life, health and safety, and that of those I hold dear, as well as my ability to speak, to organize, to pray, to move, to criticize, to serve, to choose, to be. #NeverForget.