I remember exactly where I was when it happened. I am sure you remember, too. Whether you were at work, school, home or anywhere in between, I assume you turned on the TV and watched — live — as terrorists attempted to bring our country down.
They succeeded in bringing down four planes, they succeeded in bringing down the World Trade Center, they succeeded in bringing down parts of the Pentagon and they succeeded in bringing many, many people down to their knees as they screamed for the abundance of loved ones who passed.
Yet, in the midst of this awful tragedy, this country did not go down. In fact, just the opposite occurred. Do you remember?
I remember the weeks and months that followed this awful event. This powerful nation pulled together as one. And not just in the preparing of the troops who would go out and fight for us all, but in the kindness of our actions to one another.
For some time, it was us against them — not us against us. We came together in everyday generosity, broken, but ready to spread some comfort and peace.
Do you remember being extra kind to your neighbor, holding the door for the next person walking in and reaching out to help a stranger? It was nothing to make friends with someone who was different, pull over and help a stopped vehicle on the side of the highway or carry out groceries for someone we didn’t even know. It was like this tragic event set a fire in the hearts of us to help each other just a little bit more.
We as a nation had changed. We were afraid of terrorists but not of our brothers and sisters. In fact, we felt closer than ever and attempted to make right the world around us. Despite the heartache and violation, it felt good to be an American.
Here we are, though, 17 years later. We will be the first ones to proclaim that we remember — that we will never forget that day. We will change our profile pictures on social media, throw up a few prayers in remembrance and maybe even smile at a stranger — at least for the day.
And I am thankful for a day of bringing this country together again, but I cannot help but struggle with the other 364 days of the year.
Days where us parents dread sending our babies to school for fear of a gunman. Days where we have to watch our surroundings while walking into a store for fear of being kidnapped. Days where it is actually scary to walk into a bank, a movie theater, a night club or a concert venue.
Days where our police officers hug their families not knowing if they will make it home from their shifts and our brothers and sisters actually fear death if they are pulled over. Days where we banter over who is kneeling and who is standing and who is actually even listening? Days where we hide behind computer screens and proclaim our beliefs so fiercely that hate dissipates any sort of compromise or common ground.
Days where I am actually frightened to bring my girls up in this country.
We say we remember — and maybe we do — for a day or two. But what about the rest of the year? Are we content with what is in front of us, this world where fears and anxieties lurk around every corner?
I will be honest, I have not worried recently about a foreign terrorist attack even close to as much as I have about fellow citizens in my own country.
There were thousands of people who lost their lives that day, the day we all remember. But, they didn’t die in vain. Each and every one of those who lost their lives from such an awful crime of hate were an important part of making this country come together as one.
Where did that nation go? Are we living for those brave souls who were stranded on the top floors, who had no chance to make it out, who went into burning buildings to help save strangers, who fought to redirect a plane, who called home to say goodbye?
Because we all claim that we remember — that one day in time will forever be written on our hearts. But one day a year is not nearly enough to show the world how we as a country have overcome such a tragedy. And, quite honestly, all the other fearful days are ringing out the truth of our nation.
Yeah, us Americans will never, ever forget that tragic day. But I can’t help but imagine the difference we could make if we truly remembered it.
Sarah (Pitson) Shrader was born and raised in Lima. She is a Lima Central Catholic and Tiffin University graduate. Sarah is a full-time working mama who enjoys writing about her somewhat crazy, always adventurous life as a mother. She lives in Bath Township with her husband, Paul, and their daughters, her writing inspirations, Maylie and Reagan.