Like most Americans, I can remember exactly what I was doing when I heard about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. I know where I was when I heard about the second, even my thoughts at that moment. I know my exact spot on the bridge I was crossing when I heard about the Pentagon. All day, and in the coming days and weeks I could not forget the images I saw. I can still see them clearly. I wasn’t directly affected, but I knew plenty who were, then and over the years since. (If you really want to hear my story, message me)
To a lot of Americans, September 11, 2001 was the first real taste of terrorism and global conflict. As an isolated country, we have been largely immune from anything but major wars. We didn’t have to deal with the ethnic or religious conflicts that plague the rest of the world. Basque separatists aren’t trying to carve out a piece of southern Idaho for their own. The Catholics and Protestants aren’t bombing each other on the streets of Boston. Despite September 11, we are pretty lucky we live in isolation. We can enjoy our lives without fear of the BART being bombed on the way to work.
Unfortunately, that isolationism can also lead to ignorance.
We live in a world filled with conflict. Every day, the world gets smaller and smaller as global commerce and communication make it so a seemingly small conflict in Congo can affect the price of your cell phone. We, as Americans, hardly pay attention to the conflicts that directly affect us so it goes without saying that we completely ignore those that don’t. Terrorism is going on all around us. Boko Haram has kidnapped hundreds in Nigeria for use as slaves or ransom. In Somalia, Al Shabaab continues to mount attacks against those they perceive as cooperating with the West, among others. The Islamic State is easily taking over parts of Syria and Iraq through a campaign of extreme violence. Russian-backed terrorists (and Russians themselves) have taken over parts of Ukraine, even shooting down a civilian airliner in their campaign. Palestinians and Israelis are trapped in an ongoing conflict. Since September 11, there have been hundreds of terror attacks around the globe, in Asia, Europe and Africa. We are naive to think we are safe here. Just because something hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it won’t. It’s not a matter of if, but when.
Being isolated here in America is a blessing…and a curse. Don’t think the tension between Russia and the West doesn’t affect you? Some believe the recent Home Depot security breach originated in Russia as retaliation against Western sanctions. Terrorism around the world can and will touch our lives. I have no personal attachment to the September 11 attacks; I’ve been more touched by those other conflicts. I’m not out of the ordinary. Terrorism and conflict around the world may not affect you personally but may touch the life of the person next to you. This is the world we live in now, and we all must accept it.
All I ask, on this September 11 – and any day, really – is to stop and think about how blessed you are to live in America, but to also think about those who are not. Imagine having to live with that every day. It could happen here. Everybody deserves to live in peace.