Whenever Sept. 11 arrives on the calendar, I find myself unhappy.
It comes with the date, and the memories, and being a New Yorker who has his own experiences from that day and time. It comes from having a friend who lost his son. It comes from being there to smell the rubble and read all the flyers and witness (and feel) the pain.
Mostly, I think, it comes from the ongoing aftermath.
In the days and weeks following the attacks, George W. Bush, our president at the time, rightly said that we could not allow 9.11 to change who we were as a people; to change what we are as a nation. Yet here we sit, 16 years later, entirely changed.
In large part because of Sept. 11, 2001, we are a country that looks at Muslims as we would terrorists.
Because of Sept. 11, 2001, we are a country seriously considering whether to build a wall on our Southern border to keep us safe.
Because of Sept. 11, 2001, we are a country that has a ban on people entering from certain nations.
Because of Sept. 11, 2001, we are a country that went from embracing diversity to looking suspiciously at diversity.
To be clear, this is not a political post. I’m not talking about Donald Trump, or Democrats v. Republicans v. independents. This isn’t Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, John McCain. This is about us, and the remnants of an awful day that forever altered the way this beautiful nation approaches the world and approaches ourselves. We became (understandably) scared that day, and we remain an oft-trembling, oft-concerned peoples. It’s no one’s fault; I’m not pointing fingers. Perhaps it’s the unavoidable consequence of having so many die in such a manner.
But as I sit here, now as much Californian as New Yorker, I look back with sadness at the people we lost, and the way we lost ourselves.