There are moments in history that provide a universally shared memory: Pearl Harbor was one for my parents, but it was not part of my generation’s collective experience. Now, as we memorialize the victims of the September 11th attacks 20 years later, it is not part of the memory of our students, but their lives have certainly been shaped in the shadows of those tragic events. Even the recent tragedies in Afghanistan are echoes of 9/11.
There are many lessons to be learned from that tragic day. We were all reminded how truly connected we were. It felt as though everyone knew a victim, a first responder, or at least, had a loved one who experienced peripheral trauma. Susquehanna lost two beloved and promising young alumni. We recognized if only briefly, how interconnected we really are.
For me, the lasting lesson was what we did in the days immediately following September 11. We pulled together. Crime virtually disappeared in New York City. We became neighbors. Civility and grace were our watchwords, and kindness was abundant. We allowed ourselves to be led by our better angels. We proved that we are better together. Then it wore off.
Today, our nation and world are plagued by fractiousness and rancor. As we remember those whom we lost twenty years ago today, we can best honor them by committing to regain those halcyon moments that arose in the wake of their loss.