|One World Trade Center|
I know we all remember where we were that day 12 years ago (which oddly seems like both yesterday and another lifetime ago). I was actually home with a sinus infection and slept in, waking up to turn on the TV to find the surreal images just as the first tower fell. They had already determined at that point that it was a terrorist attack and not just a bizarre accident. I was actually surprised that I was able to get in touch with family members via landline and once I knew everyone was OK, went back to watching the coverage in absolute horror. Three days later, still numb and totally cried out, I had to change the channel and escape into cable TV. It was all just too much.
That next October, K and I took a long-planned vacation to Florida to visit my sister and the eerily empty Disney World, where we found no lines and the fewest people I've ever seen in the park. Our flights down and back were pretty empty and most of the country was still raw with emotion. At the time, few of us questioned President Bush's attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq. Of course, as time passed and 'Dubya' announced "Mission Accomplished," many of us were questioning the efficacy of a war raged in two countries with little or no ties to the mastermind behind the attacks.
12 years on and we're debating the use of force against Syrian President Assad (though that seems to have been neatly sewn up as of this writing, thanks in part to the Russians - and don't even get me started on Putin and his overt homophobia). Life in America has changed, somewhat. Ridiculous and often ineffective measures have been taken to beef up airport security. Our government has given itself more power to access private communications between its citizens. Osama bin Laden is dead and we are in in the middle of the second term of the country's first African American President.
LGBT rights and Marriage Equality have progressed by leaps and bounds despite the efforts of fundamentalist Christians and homophobes who seem to think we can move backward. More and more people are recognizing hate for what it is, while the haters become more desperate and violent in their frightened attempts to prevent social progress even as social progressives win more and more battles for true Equality.
While America's standing as a World Leader may have waned thanks to the divisive acts of men who many rightfully consider to be war criminals (yes, I'm talking about you, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney), the American Spirit - our pride in the freedoms our country allows us; our strength and courage in the face of adversity; our determination to remain "one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all" - has not wavered. And while we must honor and remember the innocent men and women and First Responders in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and on those four fateful flights whose lives were taken, we must also look forward.
This year saw the completion of the first building of the new World Trade Center. Like a phoenix risen from the ashes, it serves as a symbol of the indomitable American Spirit. It should inspire us all to remember what those who have given their lives since the "Shot Heard Around the World" have fought for and remind us all not to take anything we have as a result, for granted. Uncle P may well be a gay. hippy liberal but I'm still a proud American who knows all too well that my right to be a gay, hippy liberal is something I should never (and will never) take for granted. And neither should you.