Honor the Fallen Every Day

© 2015, Laura Riggs; 9/11 Memorial

I took this photo on my last visit to NYC, in February 2015. It was the first time I had been to visit the site of where once stood the Twin Towers. I remember exactly where I was on 9/11 when the news came in that the first plane had hit the building – in my car, driving to work, listening to the R&B/Hip-Hop station. I quickly switched to the News/Talk station and they were not discussing it, so I flipped back to the other station. I was thinking, “you gotta be a dumb MF to hit the biggest building in NYC. How do you not steer clear of it?” And that’s when the station’s announcer brought news of the second plane hitting the buildings and I knew, I knew that it was intentional. My heart hit my stomach as I raced as fast as I could to the office to get in front of a TV. My co-workers were glued to the only TV we had in the office, which I think was all of 10″ big. We stayed there for the next couple of hours and screamed, reaching for the TV, trying to stop the towers from falling. 

We watched the news for the next couple of hours, learning about the plane hitting the Pentagon, and the heroes on Flight 93 who sacrificed their lives to down their plane in a rural part of PA, crying and holding onto one another – just hoping that this was a movie, and thousands of innocent people didn’t really just lose their lives. It was my boss’ birthday, so we went to lunch to celebrate. We just sat there, the only ones in the place, eating in silence. For the next several hours we helplessly watched the TV as people searched frantically for anyone left alive. We went home that evening and held our loved ones tightly.

I’m not sure how much we’ve really recovered as a nation, from such a great loss. While our economic system seems to be thriving, we have greater income inequality than ever. We wanted to feel safe, so we willingly allowed our government to invade people’s most private moments of their lives. We have become so fearful as a nation that we can no longer allow people to have views different from our own, as we see it as an affront to anything that we hold dear. And we hold too tightly. We have become a divisive nation, in our government, in our schools, in our homes. We have become a bitter nation, void of compassion for our fellow humans, for our land, our seas, or our Mother Earth.

“You either get bitter or you get better. It’s that simple. You either take what has been dealt to you and allow it to make you a better person, or you allow it to tear you down. The choice does not belong to fate, it belongs to you.” – Josh Shipp

I hope we one day decide to get better. To choose love, and grace, and freedom of suffering, and the causes of suffering, for all living beings. This is the America I believe in. This is how I will honor those who have fallen, each and every day.