I know that I'm both early for this year's commemoration and late for the rest of them but I felt the need to discuss something about 9/11. I won't be making any jokes about it and I won't be meta-analyzing it. I just had a revelation and I needed to put it somewhere. Red if you want, don't if you don't, but I have to say this.
One of the overused sentiments regarding 9/11 is that "9/11 changed everything." We hear that and we half laugh, half cringe. Life has gone on and, though we are sad, angry or some other emotion because of the events of September eleventh, ultimately, it seems that not a lot has changed. But today, I realized something that has changed.
Me. Yup. I do feel that for me, everything did change on 9/11 and it has taken 12 years for that to sink in. I guess I stated realizing a change shortly after the event. I found myself choked up by something...who knows what. But something I was watching on television gave me that lump in my throat and feeling of tears welling up in my eyes. No doubt it was something mundane, and I was never one to cry so much (at least after I finished elementary school) so it came as a shock to me that I felt this feeling. My lovely bride was often wont to cry at commercials for pregnancy tests. I didn't quite go that far, but I felt that upsurge of raw emotion significantly more often after 9/11. [full disclosure -- I got choked up at the end of Soul Surfer this afternoon]
Since then, I often find myself feeling that same feeling. But what was it about 9/11 which changed my entire emotional outlook so markedly? What was it that made me feel the world in an entirely different way? So here's what I figured out -- it wasn't the sadness of the event, or the tragedy of lives lost. It was the realization of a simple truth about people.
Sometimes, people, even when no one is demanding it, can be nice.
What will stay with me is the revelation that people can choose not to be horrible to each other. People can rise above challenges and be heroic, even in mundane terms. I'm a sucker now for stories in which people are simply nicer than they have to be. Regular people. It isn't that I didn't appreciate heroism in the past, but now I see heroism as a reaffirmation of the potential for goodness in all people. In a strange way, 9/11 helped rekindle in me a respect for humanity and an ability to see the best in all people.
And if that isn't changing everything then I don't know what is.