My journal entry from September 11, 2001:

“What a day it has been! America is under attack. Around 8:00 [actually 7:46, Central Time] this morning, one of the World Trade Center towers was hit by a commercial aircraft. About 10 to 15 minutes later, the second tower was hit by another commercial aircraft. A little while later the Pentagon was hit by a third aircraft! And finally a fourth commercial aircraft crashed outside of Pittsburgh near Camp David. This was a totally horrific day. Thousands of people, civilians, have been killed today. People were jumping from windows to get away from flames. Both towers ended up collapsing [consecutively] a couple of hours later. It is estimated that 266 people died as a result of the plane crashes alone. The twin towers can hold as many as 40,000 employees as well as any visitors in the buildings. It is unknown how many survivors there actually are.

Life as everyone knows it, changed today. As crazy as it seems, the events of today actually happened.”

I remember that morning quite clearly. I was driving to work when I heard about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. The radio announcer seemed to think this must be some crazy fluke. Moments after I reached work, still sitting in my car hanging on every word coming from my radio, the second plane crashed. The radio announcer no longer thought this was a fluke. I rushed inside to tell my coworkers. They had heard about the first, but not the second. The three of us just stood there in shock.

On my way to classes that afternoon, I stopped by where my boyfriend worked because they had a television there. (This was during a 3 year period that I chose not to own a TV.) I can only describe what I saw on TV as pure chaos combined with complete devastation. I felt the most gut wrenching pain and sadness totally overwhelm me. As I watched people jumping from those towers, I felt their despair, their hopelessness. Even now, 9 years later, I cry when I think about it. We all sat stunned, asking how did this happen? Why did this happen?

I sincerely believe that the state of this country today is a direct result of that fateful day. How does an entire society cope with an emotional trauma like this? It certainly sent out a shockwave of fear. I mean, that is the goal of the terrorist, right? The masterminds behind 9/11 succeeded in their mission because Americans have turned against one another in fear. Instead of being united in equality for all, we are divided by the one weapon that has continually plagued humanity and caused countless wars, belief. When belief supersedes rational thought and logical thinking, it becomes most dangerous. People are not thinking rationally. We have truly become a nation divided when one group of people holds their beliefs in higher esteem than another.

Extremism by any group of people must be abhorred in order to uphold our Constitution. The intent of the founding fathers to create that ‘wall of separation’ with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution was well founded because of the common element of divisiveness within religious communities. They knew that a divided nation was weak, and one united by common ideals was strong. And before anyone argues that the Constitution includes nothing about separation of Church and State, let me remind you of Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists where he states,

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.”

While Jefferson may have been in the minority to believe this wall of separation was necessary, the other framers of the Constitution had to have seen some merit in his argument for the actual First Amendment to have been worded so delicately. No specific god or religion is ever mentioned anywhere in the Constitution as a result.

9/11 caused me to question my beliefs. I’m a better person for having questioned them because it taught me that no two people share the same beliefs even within the same faith and that it is perfectly okay to have differing opinions. Perception is everything. Understanding that is paramount to learning to accept and practice tolerance for beliefs that contradict our own. Once you understand this, a remarkable thing happens. Beliefs begin to change, evolve into much more complex thoughts and complex perceptions that actually allow for spiritual growth and healing.

It is time for us to pick up the pieces and begin that healing process. It is time for us to become once again:

The United States of America.

E pluribus unum ~ Out of many, one

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