16 years ago today was a tragedy so terrible in our country that I’m not sure how any of us who were teenagers to adults back then could ever forget it. It’s a day where we all tearfully watched American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 crash into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center (WTC) eventually bringing them both down, a day where American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon destroying a good portion of it, a day where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field in Stonycreek Township near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and a day where the deaths of 2,996 people were recorded due to the senseless acts of Al-Qaeda terrorists.
But for those who were born just before, on, or after 9/11/2001, emerges a generation who will never know the pain that all of us felt as we watched those tragic events unfold before our very eyes. Most of us were glued to the television for hours on end starting that day, watching as the footage was replayed over and over again of the WTC towers coming down. Seeing the burning rubble at what remained of the WTC site or the smoldering plane lodged into a wall at the Pentagon, or the debris left behind of the downed plane in Pennsylvania, I’m quite convinced that each of us has our own story to tell where we were at when all of these heartbreaking events took place.
Personally, I had to seek therapy shortly thereafter 9/11’s catastrophic events because I began to suffer from PTSD. Not only did an extended family member of mine pass away on that day because he was fatefully on Flight 11, but I also made a decision that day to drive from my home, which was in the Washington, D.C. area, down to the Pentagon just to prove to myself that what I saw on television was actually real. Seeing that plane on fire close up was something I’ll never be able to erase from my memory. Add in the fact that my NYPD cousin and I talked a number of times over that next week where he described some of what he pulled out of the rubble at the WTC site became way too much to bear by myself. And then there were also all those images on the news of the 200 or so people who jumped to their deaths from the WTC buildings that affected me far too greatly. But thankfully, I worked through that all and don’t suffer from 9/11/ PTSD anymore. Frankly, I find it surreal though to think that 16 years have gone by now since that terrible day.
I still feel like it was yesterday when all those awful events unfolded. But what I find even more surreal was how we all united in prayer and connected in peace for a short while back then. It didn’t matter during those first few days what race or religion or sexuality we were. We hugged each other. We cried with each other. We prayed with each other. And we did our best to unconditionally love each other. Why? Because we needed it. It was part of our healing process. I only wish that it had carried forward into all the years that followed. Unfortunately, it didn’t.
While we may not have experienced another tragedy like 9/11 since, we have had our share of senseless terror acts by various radical individuals, one as recent as that driver who rammed his car into a crowd that was demonstrating in Charlottesville, Virginia. People also seem to be angry all the time now, holding on to vicious resentments that often lead them into violent acts. I see so many individuals always pointing their fingers these days at who’s to blame for the lack of peace in their lives. I’m sure that’s why so many Muslims were targeted after 9/11 and suffered from a number of hate crimes.
People want peace and yet they continue to blame a certain group of people, or the government, or something outside of themselves for why they don’t have it. When indeed if they want to ever feel true peace and see things like 9/11 or any other violent act to disappear forever from their lives, it has to begin within.
True peace begins within each and every one of us. And it begins with total forgiveness. Holding on to anger over Al-Qaeda or ISIS terrorists and their brutal attacks or towards those who shoot up a school or a movie theater or run their car into a crowd or towards anyone who has done a terrible act towards another is pointless. It robs the individual of inner peace and only causes them to propel our world in the opposite direction through their anger and rage. Every terror act, every act of violence in our world, 9/11, it all begins with the lack of inner peace and an inability to find forgiveness towards someone or something. Thank God, I’ve found forgiveness for all those in this world I once harbored hatred towards because I truly am trying to do my part to cultivate a world of peace.
And while I may never forget things like 9/11, I at least can say I have peace surrounding the events of that day and all the other senseless terror acts that have happened ever since, solely because I continue to practice forgiving. It’s what I learned from Jesus, Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, and many other spiritual teachers. Hopefully one day, all of us will grasp that concept and realize that true peace really does begin within and it begins with total forgiveness of all, including ourselves…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson