September 11th: Day of Remembrance and Renewal

11 Sep

Today marks the nine year anniversary of the 9/11 Attacks; the day that America uttered a collective cry of shock and horror at the growing realization that four seemingly unrelated airplane crashes were actually strategic assaults against The United States.  Even now, when recalling that day and viewing the images that capture the most catastrophic and horrific terrorist attacks on American soil, it has become increasingly evident that the wounds that this country suffered are still raw and will take years, if not decades to heal.

Having randomly decided that day to cash-in a mental-health day (which in hindsight was a good idea), I can clearly remember sitting in my living room, shocked and confused by the breaking news and live footage of an airplane crash in New York City. Some thirty minutes later, that confusion was quickly replaced by horror, dismay and paralyzing fear.  Not only had airliners devastated the New York skyline twice, but planes had also gone down in Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

Are the media outlets right about these crashes being deliberate?

Who’s travelling this week?

Where is my address book? 

Will more attacks occur around the country? 

Why isn’t she picking up? 

Who could have done this?

My mind was racing.  My thoughts were illogical.  Even in my quiet, out of the way neighborhood, I was continually peeking through my drapes into a cloudless sky.  In the days that passed, it became clear that al-Qaeda was claiming responsibility for the attacks.  It was equally clear that our government had begun making preparations to respond swiftly and decisively.  My friends and family were all safe and accounted for but like me, they were concerned about the political and social direction the nation would take after such a debilitating assault.

But as unified and patriotic as the American people became in the weeks and months after the attacks occurred, American attitudes of bigotry and intolerance also began to manifest against the citizens of this nation who just so happened to have similar features or be of the same faith as those heartless “architects of evil.”

I soon began hearing members of my multi-racial family using slurs and generalizations when speaking about Arabs.  Some of my black Republican friends were unabashedly adding terms like “raghead”, “jihadist” and “sand-n*****” to their vocabulary.  Two of my girlfriends from North Africa shared how draining it’d become to be deemed spokeswomen for all Muslims and being forced to defend a religion that didn’t even condone the extremist beliefs of the September 11th attackers in the first place.  I understood that America felt vulnerable and angry; we all felt that way.  But some Americans took this opportunity to cultivate the nation’s emotions and obvious fear of the unknown into an all-out and unwarranted condemnation of Muslims; both here and abroad.

Some nine years later, America’s sentiments regarding Muslims and Islam may not be as blatantly derogatory as they once were, but it is still evident by the “Ground-Zero Mosque” debates, the “Burn a Qur’an Day” arguments or the “POTUS Religious Preference Polls” that this nation still has a long way to go in the way of religious tolerance and cultural acceptance. 

Recognizing the necessity of bridge building, in 2009 President Obama signed into law The Service America Act.  Designating September 11 as the National Day of Service and Remembrance, the president’s goal has been to encourage Americans to come together to serve their communities in the same remarkable spirit of tolerance and compassion that has made this nation a multi-cultural beacon around the world.

This year’s 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance will be highlighted by signature projects in six cities – New York City; Washington, DC; Boston; Arlington, VA; Los Angeles; and Philadelphia, as well as other events taking place in all 50 states. From volunteers participating in neighborhood and school cleanups, home repairs and assembling care packages for our armed forces members, to emergency preparedness training and interfaith dialogues, today’s observance is not only about honoring the past; recognizing the nation’s heroes in their valiant calls to action, but is also about embracing our future and supporting real efforts to bridge the gaps of understanding for the sake of becoming a one (truly collective) nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

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