It was just after 1:30 in the morning when I heard the rumor that Michael Jordan was coming out of retirement… for the second time.
For those who don’t know, Michael “Air” Jordan is the reason why I still love basketball. He wasn’t just an idol — he was the hero who helped me believe in myself, and the type of athlete I aspired to become. I spent many afternoons on my backyard court as the sixth-man on several of the Chicago Bulls championship teams, so even the slightest chance of witnessing yet another return of the greatest player in NBA history was the happiest news I could possibly hear. After several hours of trying to find some sort of official-sounding confirmation, I reluctantly went to sleep that night; albeit with excitement in my heart, and the hope for a better tomorrow.
And that’s my last memory of the pre-9/11 world.
I really didn’t want to write anything today — after all, what more can be said? We all know it was horrible, we all know it was an unimaginable tragedy… but how much more can it be expressed? At this point, sixteen years later, what I’m doing right now almost feels selfish; as if I’m writing simply to deal with my own issues. Which, of course, is partially true.
Here’s the crazy thing that makes me ‘Me’: I have no problem telling complete strangers the most intimate details of my life, but the one line I can’t manage to cross is talking about THAT day. I am a lot more fragile than I like to believe, and today’s date is a cruel annual reminder. There are some scars that run quite deep, and, for the past fifteen anniversaries, they seemingly come to life all over again.
However, the thing that hurts most is how lost we’ve become since the world stopped making any sense.
Not too long ago, a now-famous speech shared one man’s dream for a better America; one where you and I will not be judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character. In this better America, the ignorance, hate, and pettiness of every day life is replaced with love, respect, and a true understanding of one another. And, here’s the kicker: For a short period of time, we actually made it there. The nightmare of September 11th became the dream — Martin’s dream — for weeks to come.
I remember the slow realization that life had changed, and for the better. I remember seeing smiles and ‘helping hands’ everywhere I looked… and I remember ‘us’. Strangers were not just being polite and nice to each other — we were being downright sincere. We started to make eye contact with each other, we offered our help before being asked, and we certainly didn’t pass each other on the street without at least saying “Hello.” For the first time in our lives, there was a real sense of community, and a real sense of togetherness. The greatest irony of the terrorist attacks is that it not only failed to destroy this country, it made us stronger than we have ever been before. In the immense shadow of our darkest day, we stood together as one.
We stood together as Americans.
Look at us now. Listen to our political debates, read our social media comments, pay attention to what our loved ones are actually saying in private, and watch the way we treat each other with disrespect and outright disgust. Not only have we become unreasonably angry and stubborn, we are also operating on the maturity level of the average five-year-old. Everything is black/white, male/female, conservative/liberal, gay/straight, etc…. and we divide ourselves into opposing groups; each one dumber than the next.
I’m not asking for utopia, though. All I want is a return of both common sense and general decency. Today, many of us took the time out to honor those who were lost that day — both the innocent victims, and the incomparably courageous heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in order to protect and serve their fellow man. And, before too long, we’ll revert right back to pointing fingers and placing the blame on each other.
Now, seriously… How exactly does that honor anybody’s memory?