September 11, 2001: it Was a Much Kinder World Back Then

Except for the horrific acts of September 11, 2001, and for the thousands of lives lost and the countless lives of their loved ones, which were forever changed – and, granted, those are very notable exceptions – life in America was better even on that day than it is today, 20 years later, September 11, 2021.

Personally, I didn’t lose anyone close to me on that day; in fact, I may have met one or two of the victims once, in a brief, casual manner, but that’s it. To me, they were like random strangers who lost their lives in an earthquake or mass shooting. Of course, their deaths were tragic, but it was the events themselves that shook us.

Such was the case on 9/11. Our nation had been attacked on its own soil, and we wondered if more attacks were coming. Was it safe to ride the subway or fly in an airplane? To drive over bridges and through tunnels?

These were thoughts that paralyzed us, and yet they pale in comparison to what we’ve been going through for almost two years now: lockdowns, social distancing, masking, mask-shaming, and vax-shaming. Canceling, unfriending, and waning trust in our once-reliable institutions, like the media, science, and government.

If you remove the terrorists themselves from the equation, the world – and certainly the United States – was a kinder place back then.

Walking among the rubble, smelling the burnt debris – wondering how many corpses were mixed in – and no longer being able to use the glorious Twin Towers as beacons to navigate my way around Lower Manhattan’s mishmosh streets, that’s still far better than walking around there today – seeing people hide their faces behind masks and the city’s residents and visitors strongarmed into being vaccinated or losing access to almost everything.

We had a president whose approval rating was about to soar to a modern-day record of 90 percent. Now, we have one whose numbers are plummeting as we face a string of domestic and foreign policy debacles.

Oh, and music, movies, and TV shows were eminently better than today’s nonsense.

As bad as 9/11 was, what we’re living through now is worse. It’s up to us to work together to make things better by acknowledging that what’s happening now isn’t working.

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