As we approach September 11, 2002, we realize that life as we once knew it has forever changed. The horrific events of September 11, 2001 literally altered the human course of thousands of American lives.
As we remember that tragic day, there have been many lessons learned. We learned that all life is vulnerable, no matter how powerful we think we are. It can be taken from us in a heartbeat. We have learned that real evil exists, but that goodness also exists and is stronger than evil. We've learned much about the American heart and our generosity of spirit.
In a time of national tragedy, we saw countless Americans transcend their social, political and economic differences and build bridges instead of walls. We have watched Americans of every age extend their hearts of compassion to strangers.
We learned a little more about the sacredness of life and the depth and breath of the human spirit. Life is a gift that we must value every day because we don't know when it might be stolen from us. Thus, we need to live each day to the fullest, as if it might be our last day. We must never forget to tell those we love that we love them, because tomorrow might not come.
We learned what real heroes are made of. We saw thousands of Americans empty themselves of their time, talent and treasure. The random acts of human kindness that erupted after September 11th were inspirational. They defined the American hero.
People discovered a reservoir of courage despite adversity that energized them to go that extra distance. There was a solidarity that emerged that is only seen in times of war. However, it was and is a solidarity that is empowering people to look at the world differently. It was and is a solidarity that enables people to look for love, compassion, forgiveness and tolerance and share these virtues with a very impoverished world.
During the next few weeks, people all over America will be remembering those who lost their lives on September 11th, those hands and hearts who tried to save so many and those who have consoled and supported the countless number of people who have forever been changed.
There will be prayers, memorial services, dedications, concerts and countless other events to honor those heroic men and women who died and who lived.
The important thing is that we remember and never return to the complacency and indifference that was very apparent before September 11, 2001. We are a very blessed nation, but like many blessed people, it is easy to deceive one's self into believing that we are invincible. No human being is invincible or above reproach. We need to work harder at being respectful of all people, no matter what their circumstance. We need to work harder at teaching this respect.
As the new school year begins and we who are teachers have met our new students, I have a deep concern. Time is the great healer of all wounds, but can also dangerously blind us from remembering some important lessons. I sense that some of our young are beginning to forget the important lessons of September 11th and all the sacrifices made by so many on that tragic day.
There is a new language that is emerging. It is not the language of love, compassion and forgiveness. Unfortunately, it seems to be the language of hate and discrimination. At the present, it is not blatant and overt, but rather subtle and infectious, which is much more dangerous.
The renewed racial profiling regarding people with Middle Eastern features is scandalous. The bigotry being expressed toward those who share the Muslim faith is equally troubling, especially since many of us are totally ignorant regarding the Muslim creed of belief.
As we remember the tragic events of 9/11, we must never lose sight of what we have learned. Born out of earthen rumble and human ash has been a powerful renewed spirit that has moved Americans around the world to reach out to each other. We must never forget the pain and sadness that day caused around the globe. We must never forget the human sacrifices made on behalf of others that day that have even continued to this present day.
The courageous stories continue to be told about those who have died and those who have lived. They continue to inspire a nation in need of healing and forgiveness.
As hard as it may still be, as we remember, we cannot get stuck in bitterness and anger. Those negative emotions achieve nothing worthwhile. We need to continue to learn from those courageous survivors who have buried loved ones who continue to call us to compassion and forgiveness.
A greater tragedy than 9/11 would be to forget or to blur the memory of September 11, 2001.
My concern is that some among us are exploiting that dark day in our human history to justify hate, violence and vengeance. They have not heard the prophetic voices from among all that pain that are calling us to healing and forgiveness.
As I think of the services I presided at for people who senselessly died on that tragic day, I think of all the dreams, untapped possibilities and hopes and the way they loved and were loved by others.
Each of these men and women died before their time. During the holidays a few years before 9/11, one firefighter said to his wife, " we need to live each day as if it were a special occasion and treat each other accordingly."
September 11th has taught all of us that life is not forever. We need to learn to say "I love you" today, for tomorrow may never come.
As we remember the courageous men and women that have gone before us, may we become more courageous and compassionate in the way we reach out to each other. May we realize that every one of us has the power to make a difference that counts.