The 10 years since have brought change in our country and change in my own world view. Already an intrepid traveler, I’ve been to Istanbul twice. The desire to see a Muslim country and befriend Muslim individuals has given me an appreciation for a culture that many in the western world want to paint with the same brush of a terrorist stereotype.
A love affair with New York City developed into a proud devotion. Like Pres. Kennedy in Berlin proudly announced that he was a Berliner, all of us in the early days after 9-11 felt as if we were all New Yorkers. Imagine my dismay last summer when I heard a country band disparage New York City as a place where they don’t know the words to “America, The Beautiful.” New Yorkers were the Americans on the front line of the attacks and they probably know more about bravery and patriotism than some guitar-slinging cowboy.
Sept. 11, 2001 made me less fearful and more willing to trust. Reports of everyday Americans stepping up to take control of Flight 93 over Pennsylvania, the firemen who rushed into the towers when others were rushing out, and the office workers who led their co-workers to safety at risk of their own life made me realize that in the midst of the worst of humanity, you will also find the best.
I am proud to see my children embrace the same spirit of global citizenship. My son works for the Middle East Policy Council, helping to develop lesson plans and workshops to assist U.S. teachers explain this area of the world to their students. Last February he jumped on a flight to photograph the uprising in Libya, meet the rebels and hear their stories.
The terrorists of 9-11 failed to destroy America and they only win if we are afraid to live a life of generosity and curiosity. Retired General Colin Powell said it best, “We have to be on guard that we don’t spend too much time worrying about terrorism that we lose the essence of who we are as an open, freedom-loving people.”
The best part of being American is our willingness to take chances and embrace challenges with fearless determination.