Today is 9/11, the 11th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Like many of you, I am moved by the memorials, the moments of silence, and the stories recounted of those who made difficult choices to help others in time of danger. I have listened to the 911 calls of doomed people stuck in the WTC building about to collapse, watched the videos of people hurling themselves from hundreds of stories up in an effort to be in control of their own fate, one last time. It is difficult to see and hear these things without remembering the pain of those who died and their loved ones who remained behind, and of the first responders who tried to help but couldn't save everyone.
As we remember the pain of that day, I would like us to remember not what makes us stand apart from other countries and peoples, but what makes us the same. Instead of seeking vengeance or solace in the idea that the United States is greater than everyone else, why can't we see that 9/11 is something that unifies us and shows us our similarities with others around the world? Whether we realize it or not, 9/11 is something that happens daily in many other parts of the world. While the details differ, the suffering is the same. In Syria today, how many people - children included - will die as bombs rain indiscriminately from the sky? In Gaza, how many children bear the emotional scars of fear and war? In Congo, how many people must die before we notice? Do we, as a nation, need to inflict those scars of war on other people in order to prove we are not cowed by al Qaeda's violence?
What I would wish for us on 9/11 is that we remember our suffering, and we grow in awareness of the suffering of others. That is the first step to compassion. When our nation can be motivated by compassion instead of vengeance, we can truly become a shining light upon a hill.
“Have compassion for all beings, rich and poor alike; each has their suffering. Some suffer too much, others too little.” -- The Buddha