A 20/20 view of 9/11

I don’t believe this country will ever forget the events of 9/11, the images of falling buildings and crashing airplanes, and the awful reality of watching nearly 3,000 human beings die in real time.

The question, especially during this particularly challenging year, is whether we will remember its lessons.

If you put a slash between the numbers, as some clever people already have done, you can think of 20/20 as the year our collective vision got a little clearer. Like the annual trip to an eye doctor, 20/20 adjusted our lenses and asked us, do you see things more clearly like this or like this? Each challenge — pandemic, hurricane, wildfire, shooting, protest, riot — offered us a chance to refocus our own view, to make it more accurate and authentic.

This takes time, self-reflection and the sometimes painful but equally liberating realization that we may have been wrong in our previous views. But, who among us hasn’t rubbed his or her eyes a time or two, taken a second look for clarity and realized that what we thought we had seen was something else entirely? Isn’t it the same with our world view? Can’t we move our mirrors from time to time to get a better look?

Hindsight is 20/20 too and, when we reflect on 9/11, we can remember some infinitely inspirational scenes — all of those first responders reflexively running toward a danger so profound we’re still trying to comprehend it today, ash-covered citizens leaning on each other and periodically pausing to lend a hand as they staggered out of the rubble, and two of our greatest cities rising in community from those devastating blows.

We humans are capable of so much promise and pain. We can do better if we let loose the fear of our fallibility and recognize the progress it allows, if we challenge ourselves every day.

Do you see things more clearly like this? Or like this?

I was able to visit the 9/11 Memorial five years ago and I hope to visit it again some day. It is a fitting recognition of both terrible loss and inspiring resilience.
When you look closely, you can also find hope (as we did in New York last year).
And, always, love.

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