There are a lot of things I remember about 9-11. I remember the images of smoke billowing from the towers. I remember wrapping my arms around my pregnant stomach and wondering why anyone would want to bring a child into this world. I remember watching far more news stories than I should have until I finally had to turn them off before I set myself so far past the point of agitation that I got sick. I remember the other personal drama that was unfolding that day (because some people have no class). I remember the overwhelming sense of “this makes no sense” and I remember wondering how people could do something so heinous to their fellowman.

Some of those questions and wonderings are easily answered: people have been committing heinous acts against each other since time began and will continue to do so, the news media will replay something until it not only is imprinted in your brain but until you are near to being sick of it, and 9-11 is no exception…and as for why anyone would want to bring a child into this world? Well, that one is both simple and not.

My daughter is eight now and she is quietly sleeping in her bed. She is a vibrant, intelligent child and she brings joy wherever she goes. It is rare that she meets someone she does not like and more rare that she does not manage to bring at least a smile to the faces of people she encounters. She carries with her a joie de vivre that I frequently wish I could bottle and sell and she reminds me more often than not that no matter how hard life is, no matter how crazy life is, and no matter how lost I feel, I have a reason to keep swimming. For every time she exasperates me, there are a dozen others where she inspires me, amazes me, astounds me, confuses me, and makes me laugh until I can’t breathe anymore.

-That- is why we continue to bring children into the world, because where such joy lives, terror cannot completely win.

September 11, 2001, was a frightening day, an emotional day, an overwhelming day, an unforgettable day. Too many people lost their lives and in the aftermath, too many more have continued to lose their lives in the fight against terror. There were heroes on that day: men and women who left concern for themselves behind and ran into the falling rubble of the World Trade Center, men and women who helped each other out of the buildings and to safety, men and women who staged a coup on an airplane to stop the same fate from meeting another building. In the aftermath of tragedy, the people of America started to pay attention to one another again. I remember reading stories of how the people in New York started to look up at each other again instead of bustling through their days. I remember how people clung tightly to the ones they loved, thankful that they were within arms reach. I remember a country united, less with a desire to seek retribution and more to stand up and say, “As a country we grieve.” Sure, the retribution and calls for blood came later. The name-calling and blame game came later. But in those first days, as people waited for news, we were a country united.

I think about where we are now and I wonder what we have learned. I think about the inane stage show that is playing out over the misnamed “Ground Zero Mosque,” and I wonder if we learned anything on that day 9 years ago. I suspect that we did; I also suspect that some of what we learned has long since been buried with the rubble that has been cleared away. Instead, we now cling to tales of buzzwords and finger-pointing, and we have lost sight of some of the things that people started to remember as the towers came down.

In that then, I choose to step away from the chaos and the noise-makers that call themselves journalists and politicians and I think back to the memory of a country united in our grief and our loss and our anger and our confusion and moreover, our care for our fellow man. I choose to think back to the scared pregnant girl who wrapped her arms so tightly ’round her stomach and asked why she could bring a child into this world and I remember the joy that my daughter exudes with such ease and I remind myself that the idiots on television who seek to inflame and infuriate are doing their jobs and that the real things that I want to keep with me are perhaps a bit cliche but are true nonetheless: it is in the people that we find our strength and it is in the people that we find love, hope, and faith.

Nine years have passed and while on the public stage there are arguments about what is or is not appropriate, one thing is certain: people gave their lives that day to help save those who needed help. People died in those towers because someone else’s agenda set acts of terror and chaos into motion. People live today with the scars from their efforts. At the end of the day, it does not matter what stands at or around Ground Zero because it will always be in the hearts of the people (which makes it a tiny bit eerie that my word count at the word “people” was 911); the memory of those who are no longer with us and the love for those who are still alive are carried not in the soil at Ground Zero but in the hearts of Americans (and perhaps the rest of the world, too), and perhaps today, on the anniversary, what we really need to ask ourselves is what really matters. Is it the buildings or is it the people?

If you ask me, it is the people, so today, I will keep a quiet space in my heart and my prayers for those that we lost, and I will keep faith with the people around me and perhaps most importantly, I will wrap my arms around the little girl who was nestled safely in my womb nine years ago and I will hold onto the joy for life and love that she holds and I will tell her how much I love her and how terrible a place my world would be without her. I will tell the people I love how much I love them and I will live because in the end it is living that flips off the terrorists anyway. But mostly? I’ll cling to the laughter of my daughter and remind myself that we bring children into this world to make it a better place and help them make it a better place by teaching them that hatred, bitterness, and anger don’t get you very far, but love, tolerance, and an attempt at understanding just might.

May the gods that we pray to look kindly upon us today and may they give us a breath of peace and a moment of joy as we remember what this day heralds. May those that we honor be remembered and those that remain be cherished in our hearts. May we, at least for a little while, put aside petty differences and unruly chaos and instead return to remembering that everyone around us is fighting their own battle and sometimes, we all need a helping hand. May we smile at strangers and may we laugh with our loved ones and may joy find us before the darkness closes in.

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