Author’s Note: 

I wrote the below post in September 2015, long before this blog existed. I’m sharing it again today, because I feel that the message still rings true. I also feel that now more than ever before, it’s important for us to take a quiet moment to remember.

To remember that we are all Americans, and that flawed though our country may be, it is still our country, and we have the power to change what we don’t like. That is the beauty, privilege, and burden of being American.

To remember that America is a beacon of hope and freedom; one that shines so brightly that our enemies tried to extinguish it, and will keep trying.

And above all – to remember what this blessed, sacred freedom has cost.

 A week ago I visited the 9/11 memorial for the first time.

I’ve been to New York often but haven’t been able to bring myself to visit the site until this September. I still have not made it into the museum. In many ways, I feel like I shouldn’t be so overwhelmed by it. I am not a New Yorker; I don’t know anyone who lost their life in the tragedy; I realize there are people for whom that day brought the kind of heartbreak I cannot fathom and pray I never do.

But I stood there and I read hundreds of innocent names and pictured hundreds of families, of birthdays, of holidays, early mornings, dinner times, late nights, hopes, fears, and dreams.

I thought about people who had to choose between jumping or burning, who rushed in to assist and didn’t come back out, who called their loved ones for an impossible goodbye.

And then I wondered: “How do you ever move on from this? How does your heart not shatter into a million pieces? How do you try to feel whole again?”

I’m not sure that I know. I’m not sure that you do. I recognize that there are tragedies of all kinds all over the world daily, and that I’m lucky I live in a nation where something this horrific is an anomaly and not the norm. I know this, I am grateful for this, but it does not make my soul ache any less.

And so I think maybe that is my lesson in this memorial.

Perhaps grief, in some small way, can help us to be better to one another.

To think a fraction longer.

To make different choices.

To care a bit more deeply.

To be braver and kinder.

And to remember how precious and fragile and beautiful our lives are, even on their very hardest of days.

Penny for your thoughts?