Harriet Freiberger: A day to remember
Tuesday, Sept. 11 — one day out of our lives in the year 2001.
The future has become the past, and we have lived it. Have we learned or have we squandered an opportunity to prepare for the unknown that lies ahead?
Today’s technology commits us to a world that is expanding beyond the farthest planet of our galaxy; at our fingertips, the ability to know what is happening anywhere and anytime. Endless possibilities overwhelm us.
Through historic conflicts, we have kept in plain sight what we saw as the American ideal. But now, in 2016, that telescopic view fails to alleviate the difficulties our differences create.
What each of us experienced that morning 15 years ago was instinctively personal and universal at the same time. Anyone old enough to absorb what appeared on a television screen carries the memory.
Think back to that Tuesday. Here in our valley, we ate breakfast, headed for school or work and picked up newspapers — as locals say, “just another day in paradise.” NBC, CBS, CNN and FOX were already emitting indistinguishable voices of the professional media when a sudden urgent tone interrupted the smooth flow of words.
In less than an hour, two planes hit New York City’s Twin Towers; two oceans no longer kept us safe. Even as flags unfurled and hopes rose toward using the day’s events to achieve some kind of positive outcome, expectations of the future took shape.
The youngest children, at home and inundated with pictures of continually falling buildings and frightened people, experienced not only the audio and visual but also their parents’ responses, all of which, together, created an indelible imprint.
Older boys and girls, teenagers at school back then, watched and absorbed even more. Their attitudes toward each other, their community and their future have developed from questions raised by teachers and parents. They heard all the voices: admiration of first responders and, at the same time, fear of what might happen next.
Those teenagers, now 30 or older, are vocal participants in the upcoming presidential election. Their future, too, will become the past. They are teaching their own children.
And the rest of us, those who grew up before 2001? The impact stunned us. We would never feel again as we felt before that day.
Our older eyes recognize an almost intentional divisiveness that awards success to would-be destroyers of our freedom. In a way, are we not acting like the people whom we are criticizing, perhaps revealing what we fear in ourselves?
How do we gain the assuredness to go forward into what appears to be a maelstrom of increasing dissension and violence? Can we learn about ourselves and our reactions to the unexpected events of the future?
Isn’t this a time to find a way to rely upon the ideals that have brought us thus far in a positive progression toward “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Actually a narrower focus might be the way to raise our expectations.
What was the first thing we did on that day? Reach out to touch the person next to us; call friend and family; say “I am glad to be alive, I care about you.”
Though most of us were far away from being targets on Sept. 11, 2001, we learn from those who carry the scars, both emotional and physical. We do not have to fear our differences. They make us strong.
Rather we can live up to what we expect of others. Nor do we have to scream at each other to be heard. But we do have to listen. The future depends upon it – upon us.
Harriet Freiberger has lived in the Elk River valley since 1982.
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