By: Mitchell Lai ’18
On September 11, 2001, America lay in ruins as two hijacked planes brought the Twin Towers to the ground while a third crashed right into the Pentagon. 16 years later, we are still dealing with the repercussions of this tragedy – a permanent scar on the heart of this nation.
It is important to remember the nearly 3000 people who died in the 9/11 catastrophe. Each and every one of you will be written into our storied past. We must keep the families of the victims in our thoughts and prayers. Loss is never easy, especially under such dire circumstances.
As devastating of an incident as 9/11 was, it seemed to only mark the beginning of a turbulent era. Every time we turn on the news, we are often greeted with information about a new disaster or attack that has just occurred.
Just last year on July 12, 2016, 49 people were killed and 58 more were injured during a terrorist attack inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. In 2017 alone, upwards of 458 people were killed and nearly 1000 were injured from terrorism worldwide. Most recently, on August 18, 2017, 15 were killed and 120 were injured when a van was rammed into pedestrian traffic in Barcelona, Spain.
With all of this going on, it’s normal to feel helplessness and even despair. It is next to impossible to directly influence the outcomes of such misfortunes. However, it is not acceptable to feel indifferent.
As global citizens in an ever-more connected world, we have an obligation to look out for the suffering, empathize with the grieving, and share our love with one another. Each individual must do his or her part to uphold a solidarity that transcends national borders.
We can begin building up solidarity when we stop assigning blame. Recent talks about banning the entry of Muslims into the United States seem to be nothing more than institutional discrimination under the guise of national security. The alienation of an entire religion contradicts the values that this nation was founded upon. It is important to remember that Islam is not the enemy here. We all feel the impacts of these attacks against humanity.
We can continue building a community of solidarity when we realize that human kindness can be a bright flame during the darkest of times. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, 38 planes were ordered to land at the Gander International Airport in Canada. The small-town of Gander, Newfoundland was ill-prepared for such a situation, but the locals welcomed all of the nearly 7,000 travelers with open arms. The subject of the Tony Award winning musical Come from Away, Operation Yellow Ribbon housed and fed each and every one of the passengers for several days until the airlines were cleared to fly. Even in the wake of the darkest times, hospitality was the driving factor in forging new friendships and a new community. There is no reason why we cannot emulate a fraction of this hospitality on the same day 16 years later.
Love is the only thing that can conquer hate. Though a well-worn cliché, its truth stands the test of time. On the anniversary of 9/11, let us use love to make the world a little smaller.