It’s hard to believe that it has been 20 years since the world changed forever — since those planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. All of us who were alive at the time have stories of exactly where we were and what we were doing when this hateful act of terror was committed. 9/11 is imprinted on our brains. During this moment of reflection, I want to ask all of us to pause and take a look back. Where were you? What was happening in your life? How has your life changed?

I was in New York City, headed from my office in Greenwich Village to Bryant Park, some 20 blocks away, to go to New York Fashion Week. I remember that people were standing in the street looking up as I rushed to get into a taxi to make it to my show. The announcement of the crash occurred as I was watching a maternity show — there was a literal parade of pregnant women on a runway, showcasing the promise of life at the precise moment when the towers fell and so many lost their lives.

I remember the eerie cloud that hovered over downtown Manhattan for weeks before winds blew the stench and all that it contained all over the city. I remember everyone being stuck. It was as if time stood still. And when our country and its citizens snapped back to life, it felt like we were emerging out of a daze and into reaction mode. An eye for an eye. Anger. Fear. Hatred. Distrust.

Of course, we had to make efforts to protect our borders although, sadly, domestic terrorism seems now to be a bigger threat. But the fear that colored our lenses about people from other parts of the world has not served us well. We began to look with even greater hostility at anybody who didn’t “look like us.”

And that is what I want us to reconsider today. What I see as the greatest need in our lives right now is to claim a refreshed way of looking at our world and at each other. Instead of assuming the worst, what if we assumed the best? I do not mean that we should ignore danger signs or open the borders wide. I do mean that we can choose to look for goodness in people rather than making assumptions about who they are and what they believe. We can also choose to learn about people who are different from us. What are their motivations? What challenges do they face? What is their history?

If you think about recent years in our country and throughout the world, suspicions and judgments about others have reached an all-time high. How can we reverse that? How can we see others for who they are and who they can become rather than for the stereotypes that hang over them?

I ask this with full sincerity because I believe that each one of us has the ability to bring peace in this world. Yes, the government has its role. Yes, businesses have responsibilities, as do civic leaders. But, more important, we can honor the more than 3,000 souls we lost 20 years ago — and the thousands more who have since died because of hate — by choosing to live honorably. We can make the effort each day to see the goodness in each other, to choose to uplift rather than to tear each other down. As you contemplate how you have treated others over these past 20 years, keep in mind that you have the opportunity to uplift humanity right now. That is a powerful choice. Let’s all make it.

Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

(1) comment

MWS

To quote the great general (unlike the ones we have now) George Patton "It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived." I thank God for the 1st responders of 9/11. To quote the great president (unlike the one we have now) Ronald Reagen "You & I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness." Unfortunately, the darkness has started. We have learned nothing from 20 years of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and everywhere else. Terrorists, drug traffickers, human smugglers, gangsters and criminals are simply walking across our southern boarder and being air lifted in from the middle east to repeat a series of 9/11s. The terror that is coming to the U.S. can't even be comprehended. After 20 years in Afghanistan the Taliban got the country back dramatically improved and with 90 Billion Dollars of state of the art military weaponry. It will be a bastion of terror for decades to come. We learned nothing from 9/11. We created a new world of terror and we will be the main target of it for years to come. The greatest American of the 20th century, Dwight Eisenhower, warned us of it all, "In the counsels of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, weather sought or unsought, by the MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX. The potential for the DISASTROUS rise of misplaced power exists and will persist." You may now consider us unguarded.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.