If you stand near the infinity pools marking the location of the Twin Towers at what is now the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, the sound of roaring water overpowers all of the bustle and noise of New York City.
As I stood in the middle of the site back in March, I was humbled. I allowed myself a quiet moment for reflection on the way the events of 9/11 have shaped my life.
As a wide-eyed 9-year-old, I wasn’t quite sure what 9/11 would mean for me going forward, and I’m still not quite sure what it means for me as an American, as a senior in college and as a global citizen.
Each year, we come back on Sept. 11 to re-evaluate what it means to be a “post-9/11” society. We hear this phrase repeated so often that I’m not even sure it has much meaning anymore.
We’ve seen the U.S. government take new strides in violating citizens’ rights. The great National Security Agency debacle (and intelligence reform in general) has illustrated that we as a country have failed to become safer and more secure in many ways. We are used to infringements in our personal lives with little concern. Policies such as the Patriot Act or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act have given the government extensive control over the flow of information in this country, which becomes more dangerous as technology continues to expand its reach.
We have become embroiled in messy, armed conflicts across the Middle East. We have seen the sun rise and set on the war in Iraq, while the war in Afghanistan continues. The nation and the public are weary of war and international involvement is counted in money spent, rather than lives saved — forget about moral responsibility.
The military uses technology once only dreamed about in science fiction, and we are faced with more questions than ever before about the ethical implications and international consequences of drones.
One of the phrases that echoed across the country after 9/11 was “United we stand.”
That we rarely, if ever, hear it anymore is perhaps the most telling development I have seen in post-9/11 America. We are more divided than we ever have been before, except for possibly during the Civil War.
Hatred and inequality are rampant. Religion and race are becoming more glaringly obvious as people look for differences between “us” and “them.” We are surely not living up the ideals of our forefathers when we seek to discredit or destroy our fellow Americans or our fellow human beings.
I sometimes worry that those who attacked us got what they wanted. They wanted America to be divided the way that we are now.
What is a “post-9/11” society? It is chaotic. We aren’t “post-9/11″ at all. We can’t seem to let it go — nor should we – but we are living in the shadow of 9/11, rather than living in memory.
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