The “physical rebirth” of the World Trade Center, says a New York Times editorial, “is cause for celebration on this anniversary. It is a far more fitting way to defy the hate-filled extremists who attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, and to honor their victims, than to wallow in the intolerance and fear that have mushroomed across the nation.”
When the planes hit the Twin Towers and the Pentagon that morning, I said to someone, “This is the worst day of my life.”
I didn’t know then what I meant, but it was as if the crust of the earth had suddenly cracked and we would never again feel safe going about our daily lives. Over time, that feeling has receded, but the world has not been the same since.
What we lost that day nine years ago is social trust–the sense of not having to be constantly on guard against the malice of unknown people who want to hurt or kill us for no personal reason whatsoever.
Before 9/11, we took for granted unspoken rules that protect us from the outside world: We could walk safely in front of cars that would stop for red lights, eat food that had passed through the hands of countless unseen people, hand over our children every day to strangers who would protect and nurture them.
We still do all that and more every day, but we can’t board a plane, go to a stadium or walk a crowded street with the same sense of security we had before 9/11/01.
Here at home, our public life has become meaner, coarser and, in this political season, we are not the people we were in the last century–fiercely opinionated, intensely competitive but optimistic and generous underneath it all.
If time heals all wounds, nine years is obviously not enough. How much is?
Cross-posted from my blog.