We knew that moment terrorists attacked the U.S. on 9/11 and we all stopped, literally, in our tracks, watching the horror and grieving over the death of so many individuals and a freedom that had for so long seemed so easy, that nothing would ever be the same again.
We didn't exactly know what that meant. But we knew it would never be the same, that we would never be the same. We tried to pick ourselves up, best we could, embossing our lives for a bit in the national colors of red, white and blue.
We went on the global attack, in the attempt to eradicate all that didn't smell right, according to our fearful posture. A decade later, we're still on the attack, and some wonder, perhaps rightfully so, if we always will be. We say America is safer now, about how that's one good to come from all that horror.
But we've wasted so much in a decade of fighting, including thousands of precious lives, and we still don't know if we are safe or not.
After all, we're only safe from terror until we're not.
There's no denying many planned attacks and gruesome killers have been thwarted, killed even -- like chief terrorist Osama bin Laden, who led that pillage of our people, lives, and nation that 9/11 day. One thing most can agree on -- the effort to find and kill him was not in vain.
Now, as the 10th anniversary nears, pundits will write the many physical ways in the coming days that 9/11 changed our lives.
And they are right. Airport security has been drastically altered. In some security lines today a full body scan can reveal a human almost to their core. We have to take off our shoes, and our belts, and jackets. But we still can get from point A to B on most days, if we desire.
It just doesn't happen so easily.
Economically, perhaps, our lives have been most altered in a tangible way. We were in a bubble period of sorts at the time of the attacks, on the backside of good and easy living -- better living than many Americans could truly afford. But in the wake of the attacks, we tried to pick ourselves up through a national effort to show that we were still great, strong and could afford another SUV and a second or third home.
General Motors went so far as kicking off a Keep America Rolling sales campaign right after 9/11. As national flags flew at dealerships signifying the event, we responded. But GM later went bankrupt, though it has largely recovered, and so did many Americans along the way. Some have still not recovered.
But though it has come slow and the differences are sometimes hard to detect in a macro world that runs on our micro touch points, the biggest thing that has changed since 9/11 isn't airport security, economics, or anything else like that. The biggest difference is us.
We have changed.
Take a look at yourself, and take a look around at your family and friends. We have matured a bit since that despicable day, despite the fact that we tried to stretch out the pain for as long as we could. We don't like to feel pain, and we like to have everything fixed in an instant in this country, but 9/11 wasn't that simple.
We know now that some of our reactions to that horrible attack were knee jerk, if you will, an emotional tug to get everything right again in an instant. We put too much focus on the enemy and not enough focus on ourselves. History will look back at our decade after the attacks and one day suggest it was a sort of lost decade, where economically and politically we moved quite sideways.
But something tells me it just took us that long to mourn and truly find ourselves again. Something tells me we have changed. We have learned. The pain will never leave, of course, but finally, perhaps, we can move forward in better fashion, learning from our quick over-reactions to build ourselves, our families, our plans, our dreams, and our nation with a long-term vision that doesn't react to fear.
We lost so much that day, on 9/11, and most we will never get back. But a decade later we can say that those of us who did survive have now truly survived, in spite of ourselves. Now, we can look beyond the terrorists because know we must, since somebody will always be out to get us, and look to ourselves instead.
We've learned that we can keep America rolling, and great. It just isn't always easy. And, it cannot happen in an instant.