There have only been a few moments like this in American history. I can recall my parents talking about the Challenger explosion or Kennedy's assassination. I remember my grandparents talking about Pearl Harbor. This was different. Because of the technology we have today and the location of these attacks, it was not possible to hide the carnage... the destruction... the fear. While I don't need to relate to you the importance of that day, and I don't need to go on and on about the tragedy that happened (or even the amazing stories of survivors), I do feel like I can tell you how those events changed my perspective.
1. The World Became Smaller
We used to enjoy a little bit of a "buffer" from the rest of the world. Problems that other nations faced seemed far away, and could easily be ignored. When 9/11 happened, the world got smaller in an instant. Someone, somewhere, hated our country enough to do something so awful as fly planes into buildings full of innocent people. How could that happen? This is America, after all. I have found myself more conscious of what America is doing in foreign lands (both good and bad). I have found myself embracing third-world problems as our problems. I have found that my heart breaks when other human beings' hearts are breaking. There is no more buffer. There is no more distance. We are all brothers and sisters of the human race.
2. I No Longer Blindly Trust The Government
I'm not a conspiracy theory kind of guy, but when I watch 9/11 shows on TV and I hear all of the evidence that we should have been able to stop this attack, I have to wonder just what went wrong. How could this have happened and we not only didn't know about it, but did nothing to stop it? I used to believe that the government had the best interests of all of its citizens in mind, but I don't know that to be true anymore. I am more suspicious of the motives of our governing bodies. I am more apt to believe that money and power are the true motivators instead of protecting the citizenry. This is not my best quality, but I can't ignore the source of this feeling, and it helps me to keep it in check.
3. I Have A New Respect For First Responders
My father was a firefighter and my mother was a paramedic. That's actually how they met each other. I had two uncles that were firefighters. You'd think that with that sort of lineage I would have grown up with a respect for all first responders. I don't know how I missed it. Maybe it was because my parents were no longer volunteering by the time I was born. Maybe I was just kept in the dark about the realities of what these people encounter on a daily basis. When everyone else is running away from danger, they run toward it. They see the worst of humanity - shootings, domestic issues, drug overdoses, car accidents, children hurt or injured - and they don't think twice about whether or not to run in and help. After hearing the accounts of the first responders on 9/11, I couldn't help but have a change of heart. I personally thank firefighters, paramedics, EMTs, police officers, and their family members for putting everything they have on the line to help ordinary people. I can only hope that if I ever face that sort of situation I can have an ounce of the bravery that they have.
4. I Have A New Respect For Our Soldiers
I absolutely hate violence. I can't stand war. But I understand the necessity of it. Again, I have a strong pedigree of family members who served. Three uncles served in Vietnam. One grandfather was in the Pacific during the tail end of WWII. The other served in the Navy between the great wars. You would think with that kind of family history, I would have been destined for military service. Maybe my parents understood what their brothers and fathers went through, and maybe they wanted to spare us that trauma by not pushing us in that direction. I know that being a soldier is not easy, and I know that being a soldier in an unpopular war must be even more difficult. I now have a great respect for those who put their lives on the line to defend our nation, even if I don't agree with all of the tactics that our nation uses. Thank you to their families for being willing to let them do what they do. I do appreciate it.
5. I Value The Little Things
On the morning of 9/11, I considered sleeping in, but I dragged myself out of bed to get to chapel. I appreciate the freedom we have in this country to worship as we please. I didn't lose anyone in this disaster, but it made me appreciate family so much more. I try to enjoy every minute I have with them because I never know when it could be my last. The television broadcast of the events of 9/11 was not censored. I value the fact that I can use this blog to write about the things I find important without fear of censorship. I am not the man I was before 9/11, but I don't know anyone who is still the same. I like to think I'm a better person for having experienced it in my lifetime, not that I ever wish that upon any generation, but I don't feel like I have wasted the opportunity to learn from it. I am taking what I learned and trying to raise a daughter who appreciates the freedom that America provides, but also doesn't overlook the needs of those around her, including those in other countries. I am taking every day as an opportunity to enjoy my family. I am taking every opportunity to show my appreciation for those who sacrifice everything to help and protect people that they don't even know. I am not the most patriotic person, but I am definitely not unappreciative. I am not the best supporter of America, but I love it when her people get it right.
How did 9/11 change your perspective? Do any of these ring true with you?