Last night I watched parts of the Frontline film, America After 9/11. Each year around this time, but especially as we near the 20th anniversary, I think a lot about what life in America was like before September 11th, 2001.
I so desperately want to see our country put the genie back in the bottle and go back to how things were before then. I want my kids to know their country like that. I want to experience it myself. But those days are gone. We can’t go back to a pre-9/11 life because it all really happened.
On September 11th, 2014 I wrote:
September 11th, 2001 changed our society. It unleashed in us something that I hope time heals: Fear. It’s something that seeps into every part of who we are.
And that fear– that turning point toward a society where fear is conquered by nationalistic excuses to become agents of terror ourselves, bombing countries and holding people in nameless prisons without trial– makes me sad. It might be who we are but it’s not who we aspire to be.The Day That Changed Us, Adam McLane
It will be the same way with the COVID-19 pandemic. The trauma that the pandemic has unleashed on our world will take generations to come to grips with. We’re nearing 650,000 lives lost in the United States. (That’s more than the population of Vermont.) As a nation, we’re in the midst of grief with entire swaths of the population living in denial that it’s even happening. I have lots of thoughts about that but I think it’s best to think about the denial and the politics as a coping mechanism… it’s just how people are dealing with the pain.
But we all acknowledge that COVID-19 has changed us. We will never be the same.
When I think back to March 2020 I remember the Aztecs winning the conference title and 12,414 basketball fans screaming their lungs out, rushing the court, all squeezing together in glee with hopes of capturing the moment, taking a picture with a player, and high-fiving total strangers.
I watched college football last weekend. I saw Michigan Stadium at full capacity. I’m not saying that won’t ever happen again. But, it’ll never be the same. For the rest of our lives, in moments like that, somewhere in the back of our minds we’ll be thinking, “Is this smart? Should I be wearing a mask? Is my vaccine going to stop the latest variant? Should I be doing this right now?”
Another Turning Point
I don’t have a lot of thoughts about the end of the Afghanistan War. But I am glad it’s over. The United States spent 20 years, countless lives, and trillions of dollars, basically venting our frustration about September 11th, 2001 on another war with few objectives met.
And, with the pandemic, we’ve reached another turning point from the horrors of that day to the horrors of this day.
Reflecting on all of that it has me pondering, “How will our society vent it’s sadness and frustration about the COVID-19 pandemic for the next 20 years?”
Time will tell.
My prayer is that it’ll bring peace and not war.