COMMENTARY: Moving Beyond 9/11

I’ve become increasingly ambivalent about the way we commemorate the dark days and months that began on September 11th, 2001.

Each year the memories and all the feelings they evoke are less vivid. Thus, the news articles, commentaries and TV specials about the 9/11 attacks serve as important reminders, not only of the immeasurable loss of life and the permanent degradation of our sense of security, but of the lessons we should have learned from the events and its aftermath.

Of course, it’s important and appropriate that we pause to honor with reverence and gratitude the lives lost and mangled and the noble efforts of those who struggled mightily to rescue them.

And we must never lose site of the lesson that life is so fragile. We’re all vulnerable, not merely to terrorism, but to all sorts of sudden external forces, from car collisions to cancer. This reminder should not make us fearful or insecure; rather, it should inspire gratitude for every precious moment of life.

We should also be reminded that 9/11 brought out the best in us — compassion, empathy, charity, and a sense of unity.

In another week, however, I suspect our memories and feelings about this catastrophe will, once again, become more muted and less painful. That’s how it should be.

Life-changing tragic events dot the lives of all of us — the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage, the loss of a home or business. How we cope with these calamities often determines the quality of our lives.

We must not be imprisoned by anxiety or grief by events like 9/11. It’s not healthy or helpful to repeatedly re-experience the pain of old wounds. Self-inflicted suffering is pointless and damaging.

We shouldn’t forget what happened but we are entitled to live happy lives, and that requires us to let go of the grief of terrible times and to move on.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Comments 10

  1. Well put. We do not honor others by making ourselves miserable but by remembering them with love and thanksgiving and by living out the best that they have given to us.

  2. Michael,
    I have thought for a long time before leaving a comment about this particular commentary for a lot of reason but ow I think I am ready to do so. It is very, very hard to so called move on beyond 9-11 and all the events surronding what happen there whenever the people who commited such a horrible act upon so many inocent people continue to do so to other inocent people in the name of there so called religion, we and a great part of the world wants to excuse it as a few radicals but the people I see on TV are multitudes of everyday people like you and me killing, burning and draging the dead bodies of Americans through the streets all because someone made a movie they consider offensive towards their so called religious leader and many in our country including our president say islam is a religion of tolerance……. if our leaders want us to move on then have the courage to say what needs to be said and that is we will not tolerate that kind of hatred from anyone for any reason; no one has the right to kill others because their so called religion or any other reason.

    1. And we in turn can not continue to hate – whether it be a few “radicals” or the entire religion. We need to look beyond labels and see each other as humans, even when we act tragically. Which is really hard to do. However, I believe that we need to follow Martin Luther King when he says hatred will never rid the world of hatred only love can do that. And that means love of everyone – even when they choose ways that hurt lives. What are the people needing so badly that they fly airplanes into buildings? Can we find ways they can express their views and their pain without it ending tragically and there being loss of life? Doesn’t that mean that we also need to stop hating and seeing people as “evil” enough to bomb them to make them stop bombing? When will we be the change and be the ones to stand up and speak our truth AND also have compassion for ourselves and others so they begin to heal? Seeing terrorists as “evil” only perpetuates the hate. So, we need to not agree at all with what was done AND find ways that they feel more safe in the world so they don’t resort to this. They see the US as “evil” so they feel justified to take down the twin towers so we will stop killing others! How about we just stop killing first? We all want safety, freedom and power in the world. How can we find ways where all our needs matter equally?

  3. I am very much in favor of remembering those who died on 9/11 but I am very much against what I call 9/11 porn. I will not wallow in the horrific images of that day or listen to the phone conversations between loved ones who knew they would not be coming out alive. I want to hear healing and uplifting stories that show a triumph of the spirit. I also think it would be nice for the truth to be spoken about the attacks and not the lies told to us by our government to get us to give up our rights and freedom and to go to war with a country that had nothing to do with the events of 9/11. The terrorists win when we remain terrorized. So do dictators.

  4. Dear Michael,
    Our “entitlement” to live happy lives I’m not so sure is really true? I’ve earned and sometimes fought for my safety and sense of well being that results in a happy life centered with my family. That happiness does not fall out the back of our local ice cream vendor’s little vehicle. :):) However, God’s grace is free to work for, claim, practice, share, etc for all people; but it seems you are not referring to that more spiritual happiness?

    We are starting a new, major military engagement (war) against this ISIS group now, that requires all American citizens to stand up and support in some fashion !!
    Our current military industrial complex that defends our country is so privatized and corporately managed; it is very difficult for average Americans to stay engaged in our “war efforts”. War has and always will be “hellish”; and for Americans to “white wash” our war efforts in “happiness” makes it too easy and tempting for us to continue.
    My fellow veterans are probably the most “war averse” citizens in America; due to the tremendous and very personal, tragic “costs-injuries” sustained. We don’t want a happy wartime; but a WIN and COME HOME geo-political event that is sadly UNavoidable, yet apparently necessary for FREE people the world over; and certainly in defense of our homeland.

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