September 11, 2001 in New York City began as any other day; full of contagious energy punctuated by the sounds of traffic, footfalls, and voices. In a span of several hours, the Big Apple would be stripped of that energy and become home to one of the most shocking tragedies to occur in the 21st century. The American psyche would be changed forever, global ramifications would be felt for years after that date, and every nation would never look at the numbers 911 the same way again.
Acts of terror occur in various degrees and with more frequency than people care to admit. From death threats scrawled across a bathroom mirror in a high school to a roadside bombing in a residential area, terrorists plague every community for any reason. Although many would like to be the literal hero in each situation, the random nature of terrorist acts makes it very difficult for most to counteract calamity. Onlookers are frequently resigned to hoping fortune outweighs misfortune, and perhaps that a good Samaritan is present at the scene of disaster.
It is important to keep in mind that although literal heroes may be marginally easier for comic book characters, every person can still be heroic in their own right. Whether writing a loved one’s name in a journal or painting a commemoration in a mural, there is no doubt that words have the power to linger long after the candle of life has been snuffed out. On the 11th anniversary of the attacks on the Twin Towers, San Franciscans will showcase their power of heroism in several forms: an opera about a man who saved his colleagues in the World Trade Center, a film screening about families who turned their hate into love, even a memorial stair climb by uniformed servicemen and –women.
In much the same vein, let words become a beacon for all those innocents who have lost their lives by acts of terror at any given moment in history. Let words help shoulder burdens of sadness and loss, and fill silences that have been dormant for too long. Participate in September 11 memorial events to aid in giving speech to the voiceless or penning a record for those who otherwise may have remained nameless. American citizens and citizens of the world, let September 11 be a symbol not of hate and tragedy but of the resiliency of the human spirit. The world has changed, yes, but the world is changing still. Like a phoenix rising from its ashes, let the living honor and be honorable; let the living remember.