The eighth anniversary of the horrific events of September 11, 2001 passed recently. It was filled with understandable fanfare and memories, television commentaries, and newspaper editorials. The pain of the families of the lost loved ones, the pain we felt as a people, and our collective sense of grief and outrage is still very vivid.
This terrible tragedy—like the Kennedy assassinations, the murder of Martin Luther King, and the space shuttle Challenger explosion—is a watershed event in our nation’s history. It is a generational touchstone, an event emblazoned on our national psyche. Anyone can tell you where they were and what they were doing when they learned of these atrocities. I was in Dublin lecturing at the Veterinary School in Ballsbridge. I was informed by the dean as I left my last session. Like everyone else, I was in shock. I was far away from my home, and on a foreign soil.
It’s a hard thing to find out that trouble is real, in a far-away city with a far-away feel. The Irish, with their own history of violence, who all seemed to have a cousin in Chicago or had visited New York City, were all very sympathetic and appeared genuinely saddened. I don’t know how, but whenever I travel abroad, people can always tell if you are an American. Is it our clothes? How we carry ourselves? People of many nationalities came up to me on the streets of Dublin; many hugged me, and they all offered their condolences and their support. In my life, I had never seen anything like it. Usually, “the ugly American” is reviled. But for a brief moment, all that stopped and we had the sympathy of the world on our side. No planes were flying to Heathrow for a week and I had no way to come home. When I did return, I witnessed another new phenomenon: People had put aside petty differences and we were Americans first. The country was solidified in a way I had never seen in my lifetime. We were unified by our tremendous sorrow.
Recently, in the television stories and magazine articles, 9/11 has become politicized in an unacceptable fashion, people pointing fingers and using it to further their arguments, ideology, and personal philosophy. We must never allow this event to be used for anyone’s gain. Just as we must never allow “9/11 sales,” and we must never permit this tragedy to be used for any political purpose. We must honor and remember the sacrifice of the innocent victims by realizing that we aren’t just Republicans or Democrats, black or white, men or women, but that we are all Americans and we are all responsible for the future of this country. The fate of the nation does not hang in the balance based on what we do as veterinarians. Nevertheless, in our own way, veterinarians possess the ability to make a difference and to both contribute and enrich the fabric of the communities we live in.
See you next week, Kev