That was the day the world burned. That was the day the world changed.
Or did it?
We think the world changed but the truth is that it was our perception of the world that changed. Unfortunately it seems that our perception has reverted in many ways, to the pre-9/11 state, despite those horrific events giving us a window by which to see the world.
For the last 6,000-10,000 years, human history has been covered in bloodshed. The campaigns of Alexander the Great, Nebuchadnezzar, Napoleon and even the Second World War pale in comparison to many of the wars fought in Asia, where untold millions died in decades-long conflicts. The annihilation of towns, villages, peoples and cultures litters our text book pages now as it littered the fields with bodies and blood then.
John Calvin argued that humans are depraved. Sigmund Freud quoted Plautus from centuries earlier when he said, "homo homini lupus est"--man is a wolf to man. Isaac Newton said chaos is the natural state of things. Plato said, "Only the dead have seen the end of war."
Peace is unnatural, infrequent, and largely absent in the world. It's not because of guns, governments, or greed. It's humans. That we blame inanimate objects or practices only reveals the furthest reaches of our evil--not only can we not face it, we must lie about it, even to ourselves.
The truth is, we've been lucky, or blessed. We were started by a group of men who recognized this, and set up a system where men are free to work, deal and defend themselves from other men and governments.
It's blessed us tremendously: there's been no state of true war on our continent our lifetime, nor in the lifetimes of our parents or grandparents. We live in a bubble, a bubble of time in history and a bubble of space in the world where we have enjoyed what most living humans would call a fantasy. Even the most developed and westernized countries look on with envy at our good fortune.
The response to this truth should be then two fold: first to be thankful for the fantasy we live, and second to recognize that for the rest of the world, September 11 is normal. Israel experiences events of proportional magnitude to 9/11 multiple times in every decade. We've had only one such event since Pearl Harbor over 60 years ago.
For villages in Africa, peace and safety are wild dreams that the scraps of humanity cling to, by which to keep hope alive. For Syrians displaced abroad or living in their war torn country, peace and safety are as hallucinations brought on by drug use. These places are samples. They are indicative of the whole--the American sample is an anomaly the rest of the world envies. 9/11 gave us a glimpse into what humans do, what they are and what the rest of the world looks like--both bad and good, as seen in terrorism and in resistance to terror.
We've forgotten that 9/11 wasn't a mural painted by radicals--it was a window opened by averages. It showed us the horror the world sees every day. Rather than gaze out the window of 9/11 and gain understanding, we've walked by and pretended there was nothing on the other side of a wall, a wall that is thin and crumbling. It's not that we forgot the event, it's that we missed the lesson. 9/11 was not the past--it is the world we cannot bear to look upon. It is our world, and we must accept it.