Upon a first time visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City just days before the 17th anniversary of that horrible day, renewed sadness and devastation filled our hearts as we read letters, listened to the recordings, watched archived news reports and listened to actual voices of survivors and the deceased with their final words to loved ones. On multiple occasions, as if we were standing on the streets in the moment, we gasped at what we were witnessing, held each other tight and silently wept.
To this day, the most common quote in reference to the brutal attacks that killed nearly 3000 people is, “we will never forget.” On the surface, it appears as though we, as a nation have not forgotten. The memorial, the anniversary, the movies, books and blogs remind us that it was a terrible day, but the question must be posed, have we, as a nation forgotten perhaps the most important lesson we should have learned after September 11, 2001?
The last section of the museum that we visited was the newest exhibit, “Comeback Season - Sports After 9/11.” The exhibit explores how sports and athletes helped to unite the country, console a grieving nation and give many a reason to go on following the 2001 attacks. Rivals embraced, enemies consoled one another and we, as a nation stood strong in the face of evil and proclaimed that we would not be broken and that we would stand together despite our differences and rivalries. We were not black, white, Mexican, Asian, Democrat or Republican; we were not gay, straight or non-binary; we were Americans, united as we stood hand in hand and wept for one another.
Have we, as a nation, forgotten what it means to stand together with no thought of color, religion, sexual preference or political stance? Have we forgotten how to put our misunderstandings of each other’s lifestyles, beliefs and cultures behind the most important human acts, kindness and compassion? Why do we, at this time in our history, find it so hard to respect one another when we’ve been through so much together?
“I will never forget seeing what hate can destroy… I will never forget seeing what love can heal…” Steve Maraboli
We say ‘we will never forget,’ yet every time we express hatred toward one another over things we do not understand, we forget. My greatest hope for our nation is that we can work harder to remember, to treat one another with respect and compassion, for the sake of all those lost 17 years ago and for the sake of our future. Let us not have to be reminded by another such dark and deadly day as 9/11.