How often have I heard these words?:
“In those few moments, the world changed.”
Yes, 9/11 had a big impact on all our lives…
But did the world really change?
Throughout the history of world civilization, innocent people have been killed in acts of anger and aggression. What happened on 9/11, what happened in the aftermath, has happened many, many times before, has happened many times since.
The aggressor may argue that such acts are sometimes necessary. That “collateral damage” is unavoidable.
Perhaps, in some cases, that’s true. However, this type of logic does nothing to ease the pain and suffering caused by those acts.
I’m reminded of a story I heard years ago…
I was attending a dream work group. Each week, we met to share our nightly dreams; we worked to understand those dreams.
One of the attendees was a German man who’d lived in the U.S. for several years.
This workshop brought a lot to the surface for all of us. Near the end of one session, the German-American man mentioned an event from his childhood.
He recalled standing in an big empty field with several of his townspeople. They watched as their small town went up in flames in the distance.
This man gave no other details of the event. He was maybe four-years old at the time.
Such a young boy wouldn’t really understand who Hitler was. Or who the Nazis were. Or why the secure life he’d known was being destroyed.
Later, of course, he would learn why. He would gain an intellectual understanding of the events of WWII…
However, the boyhood memory remained with him. The shock, the confusion, the uncertainty remained with him.
After he told that memory, he did not return to the group, though he’d been attending, on a regular basis, for a few months—longer than anyone else.
I did happen to meet him some weeks later. He gave no clear reason for giving up on the group. He just said that he felt like “blowing it off”.
I think that he’d touched a memory he wished to avoid. If he’d returned to the group, he might have brought that memory back, full force.
Yes, people’s lives were changed by 9/11. I’ve heard and seen many interviews of people still struggling so hard to deal with what they lost.
To our credit, we’ve taken in all those stories, taken in all the images of destruction, but have not grown numb. That’s positive—despite all the coverage we’ve not grown numb. We still grieve—that’s positive. Our grief is even stronger now than our anger. That’s positive.
What’s not positive is our lack of perspective. We fail to see that this tragedy is part of a long, long list of tragedies…tragedies that have caused so much human suffering through the ages—the type of suffering that lasts to the grave.
Yes, our lives were changed by 9/11. But our human life in this world did not change.
Nevertheless, I don’t think I’m being naive when I say that we can change the pattern, that we will change the pattern…
I don’t think that’s naive, because, in truth, I don’t see that we have much choice.
© 2011, Michael R. Patton