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September 11 2001 to September 11 2011: Thoughts on the Last Decade and the Future

Serendip provided an on-line forum for public conversation immediately following the events of September 11 2001 and has encouraged further public conversation in several additional forums since (see box to right). Now ten years after September 11 2001, we are considering, again, where we have been and, based on that, where we want to go next and how we might get there.

The links to earlier discussions are provided as a resource for everyone to do some thinking about where we have been (other available resources include Complete 9-11 timeline from Cooperative Research's History Commons).

What can you learn from the thoughts of others? What can we learn from your thoughts?  Please contribute your own reflections in our on-line forum below.


Ann Dixon's picture

Ignoring the Unthinkable

If the root cause of hatred is estrangement from one another, then the solution might be found in not mere tolerance of difference/"otherness", but true acceptance. I look into my self and ask, "who do I think of as 'other' to me? who do I objectify? who do I write off as "them?"  -- September 2011

Ten years later, I am struck by how much I don't want to talk or think about this topic, even though it has defined the past decade in known and also undiscovered ways. It is part of our culture to "package" the experience so that it is bounded and we don't need to think very much about the unthinkable.

alesnick's picture

thoughts about home, trauma, and life

I appreciate the post above in its reminder of the continuity of "playfulness and humor in the face of horror" and of rejoice in "return home." 

For me, the concept of home is activated with thoughts of 9/11 -- home, making it home, homeland.  Questions of belonging, safety, places where life is celebrated and lived.  How can humans be more at home with one another, with ourselves, without overly controlling one another, or ourselves? 

What happens when home is a site not of comfort and sustenance, gifts and candles, but of trauma, war, desolation, loss?  What do we learn from trauma as we evolve as a species? 

i wish for peace.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Personal thoughts on 9/11

On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, we will be celebrating the birth of my son, born one year after the tragedy. I've never watched the anniversary footage on TV. After a year had passed, the media was replaying the exploding world of NYC, the Pentagon and a field in PA but I was in labor giving birth to a big boy with a surprising lock of golden hair at the crown of his otherwise dark head. Early in the morning, holding the sleeping newborn in my arms, the hospital was eerily quiet. The only sounds came from televisions repeating the shocking imagery and commentaries from one year before. Today I read a courageous letter from a mother who lost her beloved, charismatic son in Iraq 8 years ago. Her burden of grief is beyond my imagination but she knew it was normal and that it was also a sort of connection to her son. She also knew his loss could destroy her but she chose lightness, life, and even a commitment to playfulness and humor in the face of the horror. She says, "Last year I came to a conclusion for myself. I did not want to define my life by death. I did not want to define my life by the loss of Stephen." In the letter, she explains why she has also decided not to attend memorials. "I admire anyone who can go to memorials. But, I cannot do it. And, I want to stop calling myself names because I can’t. And, I want to stop feeling I am disappointing people I admire because I cannot. I’ve done what I could. I have talked to vets to assure them that I, a mother whose son did not make it, do not want them to feel guilty for surviving for one second! That I rejoice in their return home! I’ve honored my son’s sacrifice in every way I have been able to, and I need to forgive myself that I just am not strong enough to hear his name called when Taps is being played by a bagpiper because he has been taken from my arms…from my life. No… I’m going to laugh with him, tell him how my day went, give him a kiss or a wink—I’m going to hold him close in the loving, living part of my heart that belongs to no one else." So I will continue my avoidance of memorial tributes in the media this Sunday, the 10th anniversary of 9/11. We'll rejoice with my son, grateful beyond words that he's a part of our lives. He'll blow out nine candles on his chocolate cake and open wrapped gifts of Lego bricks and I will celebrate life.

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