I am not immune. I, of course, remember what I was doing the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I still have the vision of classmates sobbing on the phones with family members as they learned whether their loved ones had gone to work that day in the Towers. I was glued to the television, watching the horror unfold. I also stared out a window, watching an emergency helipad, created so that survivors could be brought to the local hospital (~200 miles away). The helipad remained empty, but I kept wishing it would be used because that would mean there were survivors. No matter how much I wished for just one helicopter, none came.
I was supposed to fly that week, but ended up having to drive, on the road with millions of others. We celebrated a wedding that Friday and the start of a new life for the couple, but it had a somber cast.
Yes, I remember it all. I remember the tears, the pain, the agony, and the loss.
But no matter how much sparkle the media places on Americans coming together following the tragedy, I don't remember it that way.
Yes, many people felt patriotic. Many people came together to help save lives, to provide relief, donations, and love for the victims, their families, and the first responders. I remember that everyone looked at how they were living their lives and embraced their loved ones just a little tighter.
But I also remember fear, ignorance, and hate. I remember people turning the other way when they saw a person of middle eastern persuasion. I remember the pride in a voice of woman who had yelled at a stranger on a bus because the person happened to be Muslim. And I remember people refusing to ride a plane or train with women in a hijab. People spewed venom at a peaceful religion, condemning it because extremists were . . . extreme. And I remember thinking, why didn't anyone turn against the the families and friends of the men who conducted the Oklahoma City Bombing and blame all of the people who lived in the cities and towns around them? What was the difference?
I remember how classmates from Boston and NYC belittled the fear of the people from my home Michigan. I was actually told "They have no reason to be scared. Nobody cares about the middle of the country. There is nothing there."
I remember watching the start of the war in Afghanistan on tv and thinking "how will this stop terrorism?" How does killing innocent civilians save us? We don't go into urban centers and bomb the street corners where the drug cartels live and work. That would be unacceptable, even if that same cartel had killed hundreds of innocent people to protect their turf. Why was it acceptable in a neighborhood outside of the U.S.?
To me, 9-11 doesn't only represent a time when the nation came together in shared grief over a tremendous loss, but it is also the day the psychopaths won. The extremists who killed so many on that Tuesday morning ten years ago hated that in America differing views were tolerated, that we could work together despite the differences, that we had choices. Today, America doesn't tolerate differences. We don't work together. And the only choice we have is to go along with the majority view or else be labeled unpatriotic. The prevailing attitude of most people is us versus them. There is no longer trust in our neighbor and listening to opposing views is only done for the purpose of tearing down and finding a sound-bite to instigate greater fear and hatred.
I think a lot of the divisiveness that defines our age started on 9-11. People were forced to take their head out of the sand and when they realized that most people didn't think just like them, they started to revolt. But instead of revolting against the psychopaths, they revolted against everything that was different. A society that was once made great by embracing differences is now defined by how little it accepts any deviation from the popular point of view.
So, while I have cried the last couple of weeks when I've heard stories from 9-11 and I remember the pain I felt at that time, I mourn the loss of the America I loved.