by Joyce S. Dubensky, Esq., CEO Emerita, Sr. Strategic Advisor, Tanenbaum
I remember before 9/11, the moments of impact, the day itself, and the weeks that followed. These memories are as sharp as the present – and both evoke reflections.
Before 9/11. I walked into buildings to attend a meeting and never showed my ID. The sky seemed clear, and wars were far off. They happened in other lands where people I didn’t know suffered far too much.
On 9/11, I was working from home when my husband called right after the first plane hit. “Turn on the television. Some idiot pilot just crashed into the Twin Towers.” So I was watching as the second plane hit, gradually absorbing the realization that it wasn’t an idiot pilot. Our country was under attack.
In the hours that followed, I joined innumerable people desperately trying to learn the fate of my family and dear ones. When we got my daughter home, I clutched her close. I began to breathe a little when I learned that my son and parents were safe. And I watched the news nonstop.
Like me, the world, the country, and our commentators were grappling with shock. They described Osama bin Laden as evil, as Satan. What was certain was that tomorrow would be different but that there was hope in the way the nation and world rallied around us.
On 9/12, I went to sit on my front steps. As I looked up, I could see the great black cloud of ash moving slowly toward my home.
I thought, “I need to know what I think.” Not just what I was hearing on the news. Then I thought … “Osama bin Laden danced at his daughter’s wedding.” Of course, I did not know if bin Laden had a daughter, whether she was married, or whether he could dance. What I did know was that he was not solely evil or Satan.
Yes, he created evil, inflicted horror, and shattered my assumption that tomorrow I would again walk into a building without showing an ID. But bin Laden was also – like all of us – a complex, multifaceted human being. It was important for me to acknowledge his humanity and not dehumanize him by calling him names.
My pre-9/11 world no longer exists. Security checks are routine, as is deep division in our country and worldwide. Yet one thing hasn’t changed. We still dehumanize others. Immigrants. ISIS. Those who believe differently than we do about the U.S.A.
If we are to overcome our hatreds, brutality, and division, it’s time to stop dehumanizing others. And to remember that a person who is a member of a group with different goals is still a human being.
Joyce S. Dubensky, Esq., CEO Emerita, Sr. Strategic Advisor, Tanenbaum