The phone rang too early, I knew it wasn’t a casual call. I’ve never been an early-riser. I had just been promoted to general manager of Journeys footwear; this day was slated for packing the truck and moving from Lubbock, TX to Las Cruces, NM. The voice on the other end of the line squawked loudly, “Are you ok? Have you turned on the television? Get up, man!” Click. It was my new boss, a man typically unflappable, with currents of hysteria in his voice.
I got up and made my way to the living room—my roommates were all still asleep—and turned on the television to see scenes that would indelibly mark my memory. At this point, only one plane had struck—as I watched, a second plane careened into the second building. The World Trade Center was being attacked; all I could do was watch. Buildings afire, ash and debris raining down from the sky. People covered by veneers of gray and black, mingled with red. Horror. Terror. Pain.
Each generation has their dark remembrance, a moment of catastrophe that lingers in the back of their collective conscious and springs forth annually reminding them of the chaos of the day. As the years go by, new remembrances emerge; this day is no different. I’m sure I’m not the first person to ever write this—I haven’t researched it—but the people’s faces on television are what strike me, today. In all the chaos, in all the confusion, each face was the same color. The ash had covered and created a hue that made each ethnicity indistinguishable; racism couldn’t etch its name in the dust that covered a human family’s visage. Each of them looked the same. Not black, not white, not Latino. Just. Human.
In the months that followed, America became a unified front. This country pulled together, exhibiting a level of ‘love thy neighbor’ rarely—if ever—demonstrated in its history since the American Revolution. For the first time in two centuries, we the people stood together and cast down our greater demons to uphold one another in our deepest moment of sadness. We looked into one another’s eyes and saw a brother, a sister, a fellow American. A fellow human.
Fast forward to today. We have forgotten that feeling for the most part. As the world tears itself apart in the name of violence and random acts of terror, we no longer come together. Instead we blame each other. We point fingers at instruments of destruction, or at people’s beliefs. Some sit in silence while others drown each other out in meaningless diatribes. On a regular basis terror strikes at the heart of our beloved home; instead of rising together, of seeing each other as ‘same’, we elect to divide deeply and step further away from the tenet of ‘love thy neighbor’. We have started to ignore thy neighbor; hate thy neighbor; mistrust thy neighbor.
Lest we forget, September 11th was a short time ago, in the grand scheme. Under two decades have passed and we have already forgotten that we have the ability to get over our own schisms to come together and work as a human family…as the American family…as the World family.
Today, I will try and remember that feeling of love I had for every person in that terrible moment. And I will try to recreate it. It shouldn’t take moments such as these to remind us of how important we are to one another. Of how much we need each other. And of the fact that, every eye staring back at us holds the gaze of a beloved child of God. We used to reach for the stars, setting our sights on unimaginable goals only to find that, when we worked together, those goals weren’t unreachable at all. Remember that. Remember that moment when the dust covered the faces of humanity and allowed for a glimpse at equality and what it meant. Remember that we are dust, and to dust we should return. If only to see the true nature of who we are meant to be.