On Sept. 11, 2001, the world watched in terror as three hijacked jetliners deliberately crashed and indelibly changed our country. Some 2,977 moms, dads, entrepreneurs, businesspeople, vacationers, sisters, brothers, first responders, firefighters, and so many more, perished in brutal and unfathomable ways.
In the days that followed 9/11, there was a tidal wave of national unity. Perhaps you remember the scenes on the news that played continuously for weeks on end. People came together at candlelight vigils, hung flags on their porches, and checked in on each other. Everyone seemed to be a little more gentle. They slowed down and were less abrasive.
Members of Congress joined together in unison, condemning the attacks, and working together to assess the extent of damage, develop plans and start the comeback. It’s been 21 years since 9/11. In retrospect, the partnering across the aisle was a shallow and fleeting hiatus in the political war between Democrats and Republicans, a battle that has undeniably exacerbated and is currently burning America to the ground before our eyes.
In September 2021, President Joe Biden spoke of 9/11 and how it brought the country together. He remarked it was “America at its Best,” calling that unity “our greatest strength.”
What happened to that unity? Was it just a mirage or a figment of our imagination, or was it real? What is being done today to bring back that unity? Anything?
Today, America is not united. I would argue that we are divided more than ever before. I don’t remember a time in my 52 years of life being as divided as we are now. Today we define ourselves as players with labels in the game: Democrat v. Republican; Man v. Woman, Gay v. Straight, Pro-life v. Pro-choice, Left v. Right, defunding law enforcement v. supporting law enforcement; socialists v. conservative — the list goes on and on.
We have lost the unity we felt on 9/11 because in the last 21 years we seem to have chosen different labels to define ourselves singularly. America cannot fully meet the individual needs of 330 million people with 330 million individual labels. No country can do that. We have forgotten that the ONLY label we all should use is AMERICAN. We are all Americans, and if we were all to use this and only this label first, collectively, it would be much easier to approach and solve issues, in my opinion.
The 2,977 people who perished on 9/11 with their individual labels died as Americans. Perhaps we, the survivors and lawmakers, should consider ditching our individual labels and instead simply identify as AMERICANS as well. Our lawmakers can attempt to do what’s best for most Americans, most of the time, by ditching the individualistic labels, adjusting their thinking, and being Americans first and foremost. Maybe that’s how we get back to that place of national unity. That place where neighbors took care of one another. That place where we put our differences aside and take the path for the greatest common good.
We can’t stay divided like this forever. We just can’t. We are all AMERICANS, and we all have the same basic needs: to live safely, raise and feed our families and run our lives. We are AMERICANS, and that’s the ONLY label we should be using. We should all try identify as Americans first; we might be surprised when we accomplish a return to unity this way.
May the souls of the 9/11 departed rest in peace.