Five Years Later
> 9/11/2006 9:37:43 AM

We don't have many days like today. Our nation, while not perfect by any stretch, has stood as a beacon of freedom for 230 years--nearly a quarter of a millennium. Over the course of those years, only a handful of events have come to mark our history as deeply and completely as September 11th, 2001. Much like April 18th, 1775; April 12th, 1861 or December 7th, 1941; 9/11 would change the socio-political landscape in ways that were virtually unimaginable at the time.

Today we find ourselves embroiled in conflicts on two separate fronts. At best, we have used this now most infamous of dates nobly to spur change around across the globe. The emotions that we experience on this day come from some combination of our own memories and experiences since that moment that we first heard of the American Airlines' jet that slammed into the North Tower at 8:46 am.

For many around the country, and especially here in New York City where this morning's brilliant, cloudless sky may be the very same that we awoke to five years ago, the anniversary of the attacks has been imbued with no small amount of anxiety. It was a day when old perceptions were smashed and new perceptions were galvanized. Many have tried, in the intervening years, to assess the damage to the national psyche, while others have attempted to assess the mental devastation on the personal level. Writers have churned out literally thousands of profiles in courage, profiles in pain and profiles in recovery. Doctors and therapists have published countless studies. Talking-head TV pundits have proselytized from every conceivable angle. But at the end of the day, we each have to face the reality of the world we now live in and make our own choices for how to move forward.

We don't however, have to make these choices alone or in a vacuum. We are human, and as humans there is often the tendency to see the world from one perspective, to feel even universal tragedies on a personal level. We are granted a consciousness through which we must then interpret the world. The temptation can be great, particularly in times of crisis, to withdraw into an egocentric view, concerning ourselves primarily with our own reactions and our own mental scars.

Inevitably, this type of action will only lead to further anxiety, further fear and further discomfort. Certainly, personal reflection has its place, but we must realize that this tragedy was experienced by every and all Americans, and indeed all citizens the world over. Each of us may have encountered the attack in our own personal way, but we all encountered the same attack. No two persons are every exactly alike and so their experiences will never be entirely shared. On September 11th though, we have a common ground. We must stand on it, discuss our emotions, and truly connect over feelings of loss, uncertainty and, of course, fear. This horrible event can and should serve as a catalyst, a uniting force. Through dialogue and open exchange we can begin to heal by exposing our wounds, often among our most private of thoughts, to the open air. On that day five years ago, the acts themselves were nearly unspeakable, but we must try to remember that the aftermath must never be.

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