Fifteen years ago, American citizens carried out their daily routines—reading the mail, commuting to work, dropping their children off at school—when the national consciousness changed forever. September 11 has had an undeniable, lasting impact on the United States, from airport security to our sense of patriotism. Over time, 9/11 has been obfuscated by politicization, and the lives lost have been overshadowed by agendas using the tragedy as a platform to debate militarization and immigration. On the anniversary of 9/11, we recognize the importance of taking a step back from politics to acknowledge that this day was more than just a national loss. It was a human tragedy, and it should be treated as such.
After over a decade of 9/11 being synonymous to policies and new fields of national security, it may seem difficult to take the event out of its highly politicized context. However, when we analyze what the event truly was—the death of 3000 individuals at the hands of nine—we foreground the loss of human life. People of different races, religions, backgrounds and tongues deserve to be mourned and remembered in an apolitical way. The attack intended to segment our country into divisive factions, and following through toward that end is a disservice to the memories of those who perished. As a Duke community and as a country, it is critical to find ways to mourn and reflect that are not charged with political undertones, to memorialize those who lost their lives on that day. Shift the focus of 9/11 back to the lives of those affected and do not let the rhetoric of recent years overwhelm that tragedy.
Most current Duke students were relatively young when the towers went down, only becoming politically aware enough to witness the long term aftermath of the attacks. For many students, this degree of separation can make the anniversary confusing, memories and impressions filled in by family members and those who were old enough to experience the attack. Other students may have been personally affected by the attack and lost family members and loved ones on that day or in the longer term after effects of its damage. Politicizing a day that has significantly impacted many lives makes a difficult day even harder. This day should be one of unity and collective support, of reading and remembering names on Abele Quad, not one of alienation and debate.
Each year we find ourselves another year removed from 2001 with an ever-younger generation of citizens who will only know 9/11 through textbooks, it becomes more crucial that we embrace the mentality of avoiding politicization. Let 9/11 be an event from which to grow as a nation. This trauma can become more than the beginning of a complex relationship with terror and the Middle East. The anniversary can be a time of reflection and emphasis of what it means to be American or a resident of this country. Remember that patriotism and pain felt as a citizen on this day need not translate into nationalism. The impacts, the causes and the international events related to the attack can be discussed during any other day of the year, but let September 11 be a day of memorialization and collective recognition of the preciousness of every life.
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