Sunday, September 11, 2011

Twin tragedies forge new perspectives

Ten years ago, tragedy struck our nation in a sudden, profound and devastating way.

Our world was forever changed.

Ten years ago, tragedy struck my family, in a similarly heartwrenching way.

My life was forever changed. On April 26, 2001, my older brother, Jeremy Weed, was killed in a drunk driving accident.

Driving home in the early morning hours, my brother’s friend fell asleep at the wheel. When his Ford Bronco veered right across the 101 Freeway and careened into an illegally parked tractor-trailer, the driver survived unscathed. Jeremy was killed instantly.

We all know what happened Sept. 11 of that year.

Planes hijacked by Al Qaeda terrorists slammed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and— due to brave passengers who retook control of United Airlines Flight 93, whose intended target was presumably the Capitol or the White House—a field in Shanksville, Pa.

I remember going to school that morning, a junior at Simi Valley High School. My peers and I were glued to the TV screens, watching the newscasts in shock and horror.

Later that night, I sobbed as we viewed the replay. Watching the Twin Towers fall—my own personal loss still fresh in my heart and mind—I cried for all that had been taken from me and all the pain and suffering now inflicted on those across the nation, particularly those in New York City. I knew that pain all too well, the kind that leaves you eternally asking “Why?”

Crisis can make us better or worse as people. In the wake of Jeremy’s death I gained new perspective, and I like to believe I’ve become a stronger, more compassionate and more empathetic person.

The same can be said of our country in the days following 9/11.

United by tragedy—and yes, anger—we bonded together and held each other up. Confronted by fear and hate from abroad, patriotism had perhaps never been so high. The stars and stripes waved from porches and Porsches.

After a tragedy people sometimes say that “time will heal all wounds.” But those who have lost someone, especially in a sudden and senseless way, know the truth: Time just makes it easier to bear the pain. The sharpness, the sting, fades. But the memory doesn’t, nor does a longing to be able to change the past, to bring back what we’ve lost.

Unfortunately, sometimes the lessons of disaster also fade. It’s nearly 10 years later and our nation is, in many ways, more divided than ever. But anniversaries bring an opportunity for reflection—to consider the past and remind us of the way to move forward.

Jeremy’s life was cut far too short at just 26 years old—he was the age that I am now.

It is my aim to live a life that he would be proud of.

Likewise, while Sept. 11, 2001, was a dark day, I hope this 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks will spur us on to live in a way that will honor the spirit of those who lost their lives, those who risked their well-being to save another, those who have gone overseas to fight for our freedom and those who helped pick up the pieces and rise from the ashes to rebuild.

Courage, selflessness, love for country and thy neighbor, and resilience in the face of adversity— that is 9/11’s legacy, today and every day.

This story ran in the Sept. 9, 2011 edition of the Simi Valley Acorn.


Amber (Girl with the red hair) said...

Omg I have goosebumps. You are an amazing writer and this was beautiful. Thinking of you. I'm sure that the anniversary of your brothers death and 9/11 made this a hard year for you. XO

Helen said...

This was incredibly well-written and moving! You are definitely in the right profession, Carissa. I have read a lot of opinion pieces on 9/11, and this one hit just the right note, without sounding cliche. I'm so happy that you shared it with us! xoxo