Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

On 9/11 Anniversary, Harriette Reflects on America

DEAR READERS: Once again we are solemnly at the anniversary of 9/11, a day that we will never forget. Sadly, it is part of our nation's history that reminds us that there is always a tug between freedom and vulnerability.

I remember pre-9/11 when I went to the airport and did not have to take off my shoes or be frisked or subjected to a body scan. I remember when people moved with relative innocence from one place to another, not imagining that a random person might want to do them harm.

While in large part our nation remains the great meeting ground of opportunity, plenty and openness, it is constantly being plagued with the question of whether we are safe.

In our recent past we have had all manner of tragedies, from the Boston Marathon bombings to random shootings in schools such as Newtown, Conn., and Atlanta, as well as the movie theater in Aurora, Colo. We have experienced controversial killings, most recently that of Trayvon Martin. Whether fired by weapons aimed out of fear or hatred, our nation's very skin has been riddled with bullets that threaten our soul.

And yet, we will never give up hope. In the year that we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs, we remember that even in times of need, sorrow or sadness, there is more good in our nation than bad.

In this moment when we honor the innocent fallen who lost their lives on that tragic September day, we must take a pause and contemplate where we are today, individually.

In peaceful reflection we must search our souls to see how we can contribute to the promise that is the international draw of this great country. What can we do to grow peace and prosperity? I do not mean this rhetorically. Literally, I implore us all to ask ourselves this question.

At any given moment we are faced with choices. We can choose to help quiet restless members of our families and neighborhoods. We can choose to direct our own steps toward loving communication and thoughtful acts. We can choose to take a deep breath and not lash out at our loved ones when we or they are in a fit of frustration. We can choose to stand up for our neighbors and co-workers and friends when others have done them wrong. We can choose to report a crime that has been committed, even when it would be easy to turn our heads. We can choose to be responsible for doing our part to keep our country healthy and safe.

The question is: Will we? Too often we go about our daily lives putting one foot in front of the other without consciously thinking about where we are going. Too often we hurt the people we care about the most. Or scapegoat the weak in order to promote ourselves. Too often these things happen without our even realizing it.

I believe one way that we can protect our great country and our beloved families is to wake up. We can start our day with the intention of being our best selves, knowing that if we exemplify honorable living, others may too. It's that Golden Rule. It still applies.