19 years ago today I was getting up and getting ready for school on a late summer morning in Maryland. Mom was making oatmeal and dad had already left to drive to Baltimore for work.
A friend called and told us to turn on the news. We did. I remember watching the second plane hit the tower and closely following the news of the attack at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. I remember the surge of anger and the sudden, sharp rise in fear and anxiety.
That day we lost 2,997 people.
19 years later, we are still holding memorials. We are remembering a time of coming together as a nation, of fear. A time of deep hurt for the country.
It was easy. We had The Other to blame. The attackers.
We rapidly pivoted to war. We’ve been fighting a never-ending war for over half of my life at a cost of some $2.4 trillion.
According to the Covid Tracking Project we lost 1,170 Americans yesterday in the US due to COVID-19.
At the time of this writing the US has lost 192,000 people. Write it out like a check: one hundred ninety-two thousand lives.
How do we memorialize these people? We memorialize them by sending kids to college to party. By going to churches and other large gatherings against scientific recommendation. By walking past signs in stores imploring people to wear masks, only to pull the mask down and sneer at other mask wearers.
This country is broken. We can’t come together and do the right thing for our marginalized communities of color. We can’t even properly wear a piece of cloth over our mouth and nose.
War is easy. Change is hard. We fund foreign wars and domestic police brutality, and meanwhile a thousand or more people are dying daily—often in our most vulnerable communities. Meanwhile, the rich get richer (by the way, we don’t need billionaires).
In the midst of this, both political parties refuse to address universal health care while one party actively works against the current healthcare protections.
What’s the point? The point is that the people lost on 9/11 matter. The point is that we are currently experiencing loss at an unprecedented rate for modern times—these hundreds of thousands of people also matter. For those of 9/11 we launched a 19 year war. For those of yesterday, we walk into a Walmart and pull our masks down after sneaking past a greeter.
Act like it matters. Do your part—wear masks, stay apart, wash your hands. Take care of each other in the midst of national and global loss. Be politically active. Educate your friends and families why progressive values matter to the least of those in our communities.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the morning of 9/11. I also know that I’ll never forget this year. And I’ll never forget the vast disparity in how we’ve responded and the toll it’s had on the country.