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11 September 2011

A decade is a long time

A decade is a long time.

For many, it's a generation.

For my current students, it's a lifetime.

For me, it's a career.

For those who lost their loved ones in the 9-11 attacks, it is 3,650 days filled with painful memories and mourning.

But it's also a very short time.

It passes in the blink of an eye, leaving a changed world in its path.

We all remember where we were and what we were doing on this day ten years ago. I was just beginning my teaching career in a small middle school in Marathon, NY. I learned of the events during my 2nd period class from am 8th grade student. This year, ten years later, my students weren't even a year old when it happened. They have only heard about the events through TV and family stories; they have no working memory of that beautiful blue sky September morning when America was savagely attacked on her own native soil. We were all going about our daily business -- teaching, learning, working, driving -- until we became transfixed on our TVs as we watched the horror unfold before our eyes.

Unfortunately, that horror continued to unfold over and over and over again. The videos and photos seemed to play in a loop that lasted for days. Eventually that loop slowed and only reappeared on significant anniversaries and events. For those who witnessed the events first-hand or through film, the images are burned forever into our memories. There is no erasing those images from our brains. And, because of this, there is no need to continually show the tragic and heartbreaking images from those days.

As this solemn anniversary approached, I made a conscious decision to NOT watch any 9-11 programming today. The use of such devastating footage serves two purposes: to reopen the scars of those still here and to keep all of us riled up and angry about what happened. It's impossible to heal and move forward when the focus is the horror of the events.

Healing doesn't mean forgetting. Remembering is essential so that we can grow and learn and and honor those who are innocent victims and unsung heroes who were caught in a political crossfire. But remembering doesn't require graphic imagery. It's time to move forward. The world is a different place now than it was 10 years ago. And it's not necessarily a better place or a safer place. An entire generation of young people have only ever known a world in which a war on terror is being fought. Osama bin Laden has always been Enemy #1. Political campaigns have always included questions of just how American each candidate is. Airports have always been invasively "secure," increasingly more and more over the years. And it's always been acceptable to hate, especially if those you hate are of Arabic heritage. Is this what we want for our children? Is this the only world we want them to know?

Those we loved and lost will never be forgotten. But we dishonor their memory by using their tragic fate to fuel hatred and beget violence. My prayers and thoughts go out to each and every person affected by these events -- no matter how directly or indirectly -- and I pray that we, as a nation, learn to move forward and create a world in which our children know peace, love, and safety without the use of guns and fear.
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