As part of a school assignment, my grandson called tonight to ask me about what happened on 9/11. I stumbled a bit through my answers, trying to impress upon him how shocking and sad it was, how the memory of the Twin Towers falling is etched in my mind after repeatedly watching footage for days and weeks, and even years after it happened and how I had friends who lost loved ones that day. After the call, I realized I missed the opportunity to say something so much more important. If I could have a do-over on that call, I’d say this:
As time marches on, Sweetheart, there are moments from the past that I hope will be remembered, not only for the pain they caused the world but for the unity, strength, and compassion they inspired. One such pivotal moment is September 11, 2001. While you may learn about it in history books or see it discussed in documentaries, there are heartbeats of that day, and the days that followed, that I want you to truly understand.
The World Stood Together
When those towers fell, it wasn’t just bricks and metal that came crashing down; it felt as if the very soul of humanity was under attack. But in the wake of the devastation, a remarkable thing happened. Borders and languages, religious differences, and political affiliations, for a moment, all seemed unimportant. The world came together as one, offering aid, support, and an outpouring of love.
Strength in Unity
It’s easy to talk about unity when times are good, but it’s in moments of tragedy that true unity is tested—and the world passed that test with flying colors after 9/11. People from all walks of life held hands, cried together, and shared a moment of silence, reaffirming our shared humanity. Some of the notable international vigils and events were covered by news outlets like CNN, The Guardian, and the New York Times:
- London, UK: Thousands of people gathered in Trafalgar Square.
- Berlin, Germany: Over 200,000 Germans marched to show their support.
- Paris, France: Candlelit vigils were held, and the Eiffel Tower’s lights were dimmed in mourning.
- Sydney, Australia: A memorial service was conducted at St Mary’s Cathedral.
- Ottawa, Canada: Canadians gathered on Parliament Hill in a show of solidarity.
- Moscow, Russia: Flowers and candles were placed outside the U.S. Embassy.
- Beijing, China: An official memorial ceremony was held.
- Tokyo, Japan: Several prayer meetings and gatherings took place.
- Johannesburg, South Africa: Memorial events were held.
- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: The Christ the Redeemer statue was lit up in the colors of the American flag.
Compassion Beyond Measure
There are stories, countless stories, that might never make it to your textbooks. Stories of strangers sheltering people covered in the white dust that filled the air when the buildings fell, of communities across the world hosting fundraisers for the victims, of children sending letters filled with drawings and words of comfort. Compassion, my dear, was the language everyone understood, and it was spoken loudly and clearly.
Interconnection Beyond War
Yes, wars were fought in the aftermath, and global politics shifted in ways that are hard to encapsulate. But what I want you to remember is the quiet, resilient interconnection that also grew. Interfaith dialogues blossomed. (That’s something I really care about. We should learn more about religions outside our own so we can understand the world better.) Neighbors, who had lived side by side yet worlds apart, suddenly began understanding and embracing each other’s cultures and beliefs. We learned that conflict might start wars, but understanding and connection can create a path to ending them.
The Future I Hope For
It’s my sincerest hope that as you grow in a world shaped by the events of the past, you continue to champion the values of unity, compassion, and interconnection. Wars, disagreements, and conflicts will always be part of the human story, but so will strength, love, and unity.
Remember 9/11 not just as a day of loss, though the loss was undeniably immense, but as a testament to humanity’s capacity to rise, unify, and stand together. Carry forward the lesson that even in our darkest hours, our collective light can shine brilliantly. If you can remember that, you’ll help the world heal.
With all my love, Grandma