Posted by: R Jonathan Gewirtz | September 11, 2014

Remembering 9/12

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 2011 IN THE FRONT PAGE MAGAZINE

Remembering 9/12
Regaining What We’ve Lost

This past week marked the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, in fact, on America as a nation. For many, this coming week marks the Yahrtzeit of a loved one, who perished on that day, while many others remember friends they lost that fateful day.

Before September 11 even arrived this year, the media was gearing up to deliver stories of those who died, those who survived, and the families of victims.

At our Shabbos table, we too, discussed the events of that day. We spoke of the miracles HaShem performed; of all those who for one reason or another were not there though they should have been, and how the event reinforces our belief in Hashgacha Pratis, HaShem’s personal involvement in every aspect of our lives, no matter how seemingly insignificant.
On the day of September 11, all the newspapers, radio and television stations, as well as internet sites, provided coverage of the day’s events, replaying over and over the footage of that fateful day (well, at least until the afternoon sports games began), and telling us what various officials were saying and doing in commemoration of 9/11.

But I am not here to write about what we lost on September 11, 2001. I’m here to talk about what we gained, for all too brief a time.

September 12, 2001 was an amazing day. People were just getting over the initial shock, so many thousands were missing or presumed dead, and their families were searching, hoping against hope that their husband, wife, father, mother, grandparent or child had somehow survived. The rest of us got that. We were concerned; we offered help.

As we did, America changed. We were more considerate of each other, more focused on our families. We reevaluated our priorities and found them wanting. We were patriotic, placing flags on our homes and cars. We were united as one, selfless and willing to do for others, even perfect strangers.

It got to a point where one news outlet reported that big businesses were having a hard time filling high-paying jobs which required long hours because people preferred to be home, and forgo a larger paycheck. It was a renaissance for us as Americans, and it was all too short-lived.

Ten years have passed, and we’re basically back to where we were before. Of course, those who lost family members still have gaping holes in their lives, and I wish them comfort for their loss. But as the American people, committed to the inalienable right to pursue happiness, we’re back to pre-9/11.

We’re not as friendly as we were on September 12. We aren’t willing to sacrifice as we once were, and we take our families, friends, and loved ones for granted. We don’t spend enough time with them; we don’t tell people we love them as we should.

We are not as patriotic as we were. We don’t feel connected as countrymen, and while the Jewish People still are one extended family, America is not. And I think it’s a shame.

Everyone has their own personal 9/11 story, with its own joy or sorrow. I’d like to share what is in my opinion one of the most horrific stories. I was there when it happened, and I remember it clearly as if it were yesterday. I remember where I was, what I saw, and the darkness of the evening just a day or two after the terror strike.

As I walked into Maariv, I saw two people conversing outside the shul. They were, like the rest of the world, discussing the tragedy and trying to make sense of it. They discussed possible reasons for the attack, and what the United States should do. They discussed the families who had lost so much. Then, they realized Maariv was about to start and they had to go inside.

As they parted company, by way of ending the conversation, one shrugged and said with acceptance, “Nu, Nu, life goes on.”

“WHAT?!” I wanted to scream. “Life doesn’t just go on! People died; the world has been changed forever. We should be changed forever. We can’t ignore what happened and pretend that we are fine going along as we please. Life MUST be changed by these events – WE must be changed by them.”

And now, sadly, ten years later, his words are true.

Life went on. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.
We can try to recapture what we had on 9/12, and 9/13, and 10/22 and beyond. I can’t say exactly when it changed but it certainly did. We went back to “normal,” and put the past behind us. Though we may not forget those who died, or how they died, I think we’ve forgotten how we reacted initially. Let’s try to remember.

Let’s focus more on what matters: spending time with our families; becoming better people; not letting money rule our lives. Let’s strengthen our connection with G-d, and learn the reasons why we do what we do. We were put here for a purpose, we can try to find it and live it. Let’s think of others, and seek to take care of their needs before our own. Don’t you remember how good that felt?

September 2001 is gone, but September 2011 is here.

Let’s bring back what we lost, and be great again.

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