The Stories We Tell

New York Public Library

A friend is working on a project concerning how historians are dealing with the preservation of the occurrences in the aftermath of 9/11 specifically what do we save and how do we preserve it.

Which made me wonder… what story are we going to tell?

You can take this from the level of the individual to the country to the world – and on every level tell a different story – provide a different filter – let some facts speak and lay others silently aside.  

Like the rest of the world – I was stunned and horrified at the occurrences that morning. And like many spent the rest of the day wandering through it dazed. It altered my perception of the world – my own sense of safety and security. Nothing on this magnitude had been perpetrated on American soil since the bombing of Pearl Harbor in WWII.

But we forget.

We forget that our situation is not normal – that many nations deal with much more on a daily basis – look what the British and Irish went through, or what occurred in Beirut in the 80’s, or what is occurring in so many countries in the Middle East right now. Every day in the Middle East soldiers and civilians are killed – we see the numbers daily in our news feeds. Can we even imagine that being our country?

So – what story will we tell?

One story that I hope we tell is about what, in our fear, we were willing to lose. Fear is a strange thing. It makes us willing to give up so much and we were afraid and our leaders leveraged those fears. Molded them, gave indefinite fears form and then went to work on their own agendas.

We wanted answers, someone to blame, someone to punish, someone to protect us and tell us that this would never happen again. For us the world stopped – paused while the planes were grounded – and then our world started up again different.  

We are a great nation – but we were not a wise or good nation.

The most powerful fears are caused by what we don’t understand. And it takes time to understand – to process, putting emotion aside, and think through things – to look at the information through different points of view. Even then – you may comprehend what occurred but not understand.

But then how many of us are crusaders or extremists – willing to put our lives, not just on the line for a moment, but for years of planning and training. Because that is what it took – years for them to develop and execute the events on 9/11. How many of us truly understand that mentality that level of commitment to a goal that ends in death?

This is a story that has nothing to do with religion, with faith or with nationality, this has to do with ideology and fear. Their fear of us – of change – and their desire to instill fear in us.

Fear is a destructive emotion – nothing great or worthwhile has ever come of it.

And we have proved that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Our fear has changed the world – Think about it. In how many little ways has the world changed from air travel to getting a bank account. How many of us know people who have were detained, who still have a double check from officials as they enter and leave an airport?

And then there are the things that changed us as a country. We wanted the men found who had done this. Found and punished. And we didn’t care how. We demanded information and we received it. It wasn’t till much later that we asked how.

Look where we are now.

So, my friends post on FB telling about her research on preserving 9/11 made me think. What stories will we tell – and have we learned anything from them.

~ Tess Anderson

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