When you think back on the past what comes to mind? Good memories? Painful ones? Today is Patriot Day in the United States. It’s observed on September 11 to mark the anniversary of terrorist attacks in 2001. (Side point? It’s “Patriot Day,” NOT “Patriot’s Day!” Patriot’s Day (or Patriots’ Day) commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord, which were fought near Boston in 1775. Being in a relationship with a historian has its perks.)
Patriot Day. On September 11, 2001, at least 2,996 people lost their lives. Thousands of people knew someone who died that day. Thousands more know someone who lost a loved one. But what will we remember?
That day is an intensely personal memory for most of us in this country. The day is still fraught with loss, with sadness and with anger. Our nation lost a big chunk of our innocence; America had to admit she was no longer safe from modern-day terrorism on her own soil.
Many of us got angry – really angry. A lot of people still are. People wanted then and still want today to have one particular individual or group to blame. The situation is too complex for that to happen. Unfortunately, much of the anger has been waged against innocent Muslims. The great majority of Muslims decry the attacks to our country even more than some Christians and Jews, because these senseless acts of violence desecrate Islam and her principles. Yet, those people continue to bear the brunt of ignorance and senseless violence.
There is, perhaps, a greater question than, “What do you remember?” The more productive and telling question is, “How does remembering what you experienced serve you?” Whether it’s observing the anniversary of 9/11 or the memory of a nasty divorce, what emotions do we want to stir up when recalling the past?
I don’t suggest forgetting painful memories or missing loved ones no longer with us, but I conversely I don’t recommend dwelling on those thoughts to our physical, emotion and spiritual detriment either. Just like a physical wound creates scar tissue, our emotional wounds can create something similar in our consciousness. We are stronger for what we move through and beyond.
But like that scar tissue, going back and picking off the emotional scar tissue, digging open the wound and then dredging up blame and anger doesn’t help us heal. Some reading this will say, “But I DESERVE to be angry!” Perhaps you do. If that is your need then you will have that experience and all the consequences that accompany your emotions. I believe what we deserve is peace of mind, self-respect and unshakeable faith in the power of love.
If there is some event in your life – 9/11 or something else – would you be willing to remember the experience from a place of observation instead of re-enactment? On Patriot Day we can honor our fallen heroes through working for peace instead of seeking to further destroy. We can seek to understand, instead of demanding to be understood. We can listen with the intent of healing, instead of waiting for a break in the conversation to interject snarky retorts.
The common slogan from that day 13 years ago is, “We will never forget.” I’ve more often used my own slogan, “We will always remember.” The question is, How will my memories aid in creating a better life for myself and others? What can I take away from the experience to move forward into the future, learning from the past instead of being stuck in it?
With blessings and love for all the people who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, and for their families and friends who still miss them,