It is fundamentally, truly, difficult to fathom how 19 years have gone by since the most horrific attack that ever occurred on American soil took place on September 11, 2001.
The world prior to that sunny Tuesday morning was a different place. A place which paradoxically, with the benefit of hindsight, was not nearly as open-minded or as accepting of our fellow human beings as we would have liked to believe at the time, but there was certainly something for Americans feeling secure living amongst our fellow human beings in the world. In a year like 2020 though – in my estimation there might not be a comparable year out there in the last 100 years – the undercurrent of hatred and fear of the unknown have risen to the surface as we all wait in anticipation for a vaccine for the Coronavirus.
While not a perfect man – some would argue far from it – President George W. Bush, the son of an American president, less than a year as the most powerful human being on Earth, displayed a most remarkable sense of poise and grace when he first found out the news of the terror attacks, while he was in the company of children at an elementary school. Leadership isn’t about who yells the loudest, or who preys on your fears most effectively, it’s about who is the person for the moment and the person who most rises to their own capabilities because of that moment. After the World Trade Center was knocked down in lower Manhattan, George W. Bush, with one arm wrapped around a fireman and another holding a bullhorn, made an impromptu speech. In that speech he said that the pains suffered by a scarred city and nation were heard from sea to shining sea and that the world at large heard that pain and that justice will be served, and we believed him. At that moment in American history you would be hard-pressed to find a red-blooded American who wouldn’t run through a brick wall for that Commander in Chief.
The world however, was forever changed. Gone were the days of lackadaisical security screens at airports, a world largely free of Islamophobia to the degree it’s prevalent today, and a shattering of the natural order of things in the United States that the country hadn’t experienced since the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. In the same way that a plane in rural Pennsylvania, a part of the Pentagon, and the World Trade Center in New York were not supposed to be blown up, an American president was not supposed to resign in disgrace, either.
The year 2020 has been a year for the ages, oftentimes not for the better. It was nearly impossible to imagine back in 2001, as is always the case in the aftermath of tragedy, that our nation would pick itself up and build again. Yet we did, and to put the icing on the cake, we actually built a structure that was taller than both towers in downtown Manhattan to signify American strengths and our collective national resolve that we will never be intimidated by thugs and bullies.
At a moment when New York City to a large extent has descended into some version of chaos due to the aftermath of the Coronavirus it’s important that all of us, as Americans, understand, just as we did after 9/11, that this too shall pass. It is equally important though, to remember the ones that we have lost, to be more prepared if there is a next time, and to understand that to be born or to become an American, is the highest honor there is. May God grant repose to the souls who passed that terrible September day in 2001, the ones that passed away due to lingering health conditions from that day, the men and women in uniform who gave the ultimate sacrifice combatting terrorism around the world so that we may be free, and God bless the families of all the aforementioned.