September 11th is scarred into the memory of everyone who was old enough to understand it. But September 11th is not the day that we should commemorate. That day was the day that hatred and violence was carried to our doorstep. But September 12 is the day we really understood who we, as Americans, could be. It was too early to grasp the depth of the political, too early to grasp at the straws ideology of the people who carried out the attacks. But September 12 was the day that We The People, perhaps for the first time in our history, were one People. This was the day that we understood that firefighters, police officers and ordinary people ran into flames and death because they believed that helping others, even at the cost of your own life, was the right thing to do. This was the day that strangers offered everything they could give to help strangers. This was the day when the flag was flown as a symbol of the unity that the field of stars is meant to represent. This was the day we called our loved ones just to make sure they were okay. This was the day that we rose to the challenge posed by hate and violence. This was the day we said "We are Americans, and we are united."
All too quickly, those of us who did not lose loved ones, those who did not see the plumes of smoke rise above their homes, those who were not left with gaping holes in their souls and their cities, went back to who we had been on September 10th. People blamed a religion for the actions of a small group of people who perverted their faith. People sought to answer violence with violence rather than justice. People used hatred to justify hatred. And most of us, just went on with life. I'm as guilty as anyone. Even the hard lessons don't teach us as well as we would like.
But for today, remember that moment. The one the came after the fear and shock, but before the anger and the apathy. Look to the moment when commuters shared eye contact, the moment where you lost your concern for yourself, the moment you felt like you owed your community something, anything, that you could give. Remember that moment when you looked at a stranger and saw a brother, sister, mother, father, son, daughter instead of just another face in a crowd. As you remember, try to find that moment in your own heart again.