That’s the phrase that you’ll see all over the Internet today.
It’s been 20 years since 9/11.
It’s a phrase I agree with. We must never forget the lives lost on September 11th, 2001. But what I also don’t want to forget is how I felt as an American in the days and weeks following the attack.
I felt a sense of unity.
A belonging that I had never experienced before. As a black person, a woman and a Christian, I’ve often felt out of place in the workplace, in social settings, in school and while going about the normal activities of life. But in the days following the tragedy of September 11th, I felt for the first time like I was being looked at as just an American. It felt like we were all brothers and sisters who cared about each other, no matter our differences.
I know not all Americans felt this way. 9/11 inflamed racism towards American Muslims and Americans of Arab descent. So I won’t pretend that there weren’t still those of us who felt othered, shunned and left out.
But that sense of unity I was able to experience for a few weeks is something that’s been on my mind a lot in the last two years as we’ve become more and more disconnected as a country and division seems to be becoming an acceptable norm.
I remember standing in line to buy an American flag. Some of you may have bought lots of flags in your life or grew up with one flying outside your home, but that’s not my story. I was 26 years old when I felt such a sense of unity and love of country that I made a point to find a store and stand in a long line of people who all wanted to display their solidarity with the rest of the country. I remember standing in a diverse line of people. People of different races, ages, socio-economic backgrounds, religious beliefs and physical abilities, all with a common purpose. People who normally would have passed each other on the street or in the grocery store without saying a word were saying hello, asking how each other were doing and if they had any personal connection to any of the victims or first responders. Strangers were listening to each other’s stories and sharing their own.
Buying a flag to put on my car as I drove around Los Angeles in the weeks after the attack of September 11th was not a heroic act. This story isn’t about that. It’s about the sense of unity, acceptance and love that I saw and still get goosebumps when I think about today. Did you experience it? For me that attack caused me to realize how privileged I have been to be born into a generation that had never experienced war on its own soil. Twenty-six year old Jamila took for granted that wars were fought off in far away lands. My sense of security and safety had been rocked to the core while at the same time my patriotism had been kindled as I saw us come together to comfort, protect and support each other.
I wish that unity hadn’t faded away. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but as the months and years went by, most of us, especially those of us who didn’t loose anyone we knew on that day, lost that sense that being an American binds us in a special way.
So today as I remember those who lost their lives on September 11th; those in the towers, on the ground, in the planes and while trying to rescue others; as I remember the first responders; those who cleaned up and have helped rebuild…as I remember those who on behalf of the rest of us volunteered or were sent to battlefields in the war on terror and to those who gave their lives in service trying to right the wrong of that day - I also pray that we would remember those feelings of unity, those days and weeks where we looked past all the things that make us different from one another and focused on the one thing that makes us all the same.
We are Americans.
Like a big dysfunctional family that has aunts and uncles and cousins that no one can stand, we look past that stuff and come together when our family is in trouble or experiencing suffering, heartache or pain. Our country, our American family is in trouble. We’ve let the dysfunction get out of control and I fear we might be at a point where even a horrible event, like what happened 20 years ago today, might not be able to bring back our sense of unity.
If you’re new to our blog, let me clarify that this is not a political post. I don’t believe God has a political party. Nothing I am saying is coming from a political opinion, it’s coming from the ache in my heart that I feel when I see so much divisiveness and hostility in our country. I believe we can love and respect each other even when we don’t agree.
The purpose of this post is to just ask you to pray with me, that today would not only be a day of remembrance about what happened, but also be a day of reflection for each one of us on how we can put aside our differences respect love and care for one another as an American family. The way we did in the days after that terrible tragic attack.
#neverforget September 11th, 2001. Never forget we are all Americans. Never forget we can choose unity. Never forget to show others love. Start today by praying for someone you can’t stand. Yep, I said it…I know as Christians we are supposed to love everyone, but let’s be real, I’m sure you can think of at least one person you can’t stand…Humble yourself before the Lord and lift them up to our Father today. Let’s practice what we preach.
Jamila is the founder of loved+blessed. On her personal mission to leave a legacy of encouragement, she blogs about her own life lessons with the hope that it will bring joy into others’ lives and help them find the courage to keep walking in faith knowing that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord. Read her testimony of how God turned her misery into ministry.