Twelve years ago today I was sitting in my Office Technology class. The day had started out just like any other, but in an instant the course of history would change and thousands of lives would forever be altered. The guidance counselor came flying into the class room and told the teacher to turn on the TV. “Any channel. It doesn’t matter. It’s on all of them.” I sat in stunned silence as I watched one tower engulfed in flames, and soon to follow, a second plane fly into the second tower. I watched in total confusion and utter disbelief as both towers crumbled. I found out later that day that I had an Uncle who was a NYC Firefighter. He was lucky to escape with his life. My heart broke for the thousands of families that lost loved ones that day. It was after this fateful day that a new word began popping up into our daily lives. “Patriotism.” Our government vowed to find the people responsible for this horrible tragedy.
Fast forward 12 years. We found and killed the mastermind. We have also killed and/or punished countless followers. Year after year we take to Facebook, Twitter, and various other media outlets to honor the fallen and show the world we have not forgotten. In the last few days something has been overloading my newsfeed that tears me apart. A few weeks back I read about a two million man motorcycle run heading to Washington D.C. scheduled to arrive on 9/11. As a member of the biker community it brings me great joy when riders band together to support a cause. It shows the world that what you see on TV is not always what reality is. It shows the world that bikers have hearts. They have families, they live, breathe, bleed, and hurt just like everyone else. However when we band together under the guise of “Patriotism” and lash out at an entire group of people based on nothing more than hatred, ignorance, and irrational fear, we become the very thing we’re fighting against. When we let fear and ignorance take over, we have lost the fight.
I don’t hold many strong political views. I do however believe all people, regardless of race, sexual orientation, and religion should have the same rights. Everyone should be able to live their lives and not have to hide who or what they are. With that being said, it saddens me to know that the only reason two million bikers saddled up and headed to D.C. was not to honor the fallen, but to stop a Muslim march in our nation’s capital. The collective thinking is that because the monsters behind the 9/11 attacks were Muslim, that makes them all terrorists. To me, that’s like saying all Catholics are child molesters because a handful of Catholic priests spent their careers touching little boys. As a country we have become very hateful and judgmental. I’m not a religious person, but isn’t the religion our country was founded on based on love and forgiveness? And this hatred and bigotry has not just popped up in the last few weeks, I see this on a daily basis. Every time I open my computer. We fear what we don’t understand. We pass judgment on an entire religion because a few extremists took their beliefs a little too far. We tell an entire group of people that they have no right to practice their religion because it’s different from ours. I feel a better way to honor the fallen is through strength, love, and perseverance. Not hatred and anger.
I will honor those lost on 9/11 and all the soldiers we have lost to war by living my life and enjoying the freedoms they have died for. I will have understanding, patience, and love for everyone, even if they are not the same as me, because no one should have to hide who they are.