The following is something I wrote on September 12, 2001. It was later printed in The Sandusky Register along with several other reactions to what had happened on 9/11. I'm left wondering today how we've drifted so far. In the wake of 9/11 we were brought together. Considering how polarized we are today, I'm left wondering why? We can't seem to agree on anything as a country any more, and with every day there seems to be an ever-growing "us vs. them" mentality. When did that common thread that pulled us all together on 9/11/01 snap? I share the below with hope that it won't take another tragedy like 9/11 to bring us back together:
An icon of the American lifestyle, a trademark of the NY City skyline GONE-- with it the lives of thousands… and with them the innocence of America. I remained glued to my TV set most of the day. Hoping to wake up, because it couldn’t be real. I had to be dreaming. Nothing so horrible could ever actually happen. As the reality of the situation sunk in, realizing it wasn’t a dream. I needed to escape. I wanted to believe, I hoped that if I left and came back—maybe, just maybe it would undo what had happened.
As I went outside, despite the clear sunny skies, something felt different. A somber tone hung over the air. An unspeakable sadness trapped in everyone’s hearts. I could see it in the eyes of everyone. Even the laughter I’d hear and the smiles I’d see were superficial. People just trying to forget how sad or scared they were, a nervous laughter—an icing on a very bitter cake. We tried, our hearts heavy with grief, with anger, with fear: take your pick. We tried to put on a happy face and pretend it wasn’t real. Despite our best efforts and strongest prayers, it was real.
We went to bed with heavy hearts and a deep mourning grief, for loss of life and loss of innocence. Deep inside we hung on to the hope that the tragedy would somehow be erased by the next morning, hoping the World Trade Center would still be intact on the New York skyline.
Somehow, despite the tragedy, despite the terrorists best efforts, the American spirit was only mildly bruised. Through adversity, we came together as a whole. We listened and consoled those who lost loved ones, we gave blood to help the wounded, and we watched on as our friends around the world joined in and proclaimed that an attack on the United States was an attack on any of them. In the cruel irony of it all, the malice and hatred bred by the terrorists and their actions brought forth an outpouring of togetherness and union, displays of the best of human nature. In tragedy, we’d put our squabbles aside and stood together. In tragedy, we’d remembered what it means to be American. But why does it take a tragedy to make us forget our differences? Why does it take such a horrible chain of events to bring out such an outpouring of love?
-Darrin E. Matteson
September 12, 2001