Eight years ago today, I was working at BYU as a deliveryman for the BYU dairy products lab. We had been at the creamery for a few minutes when the other kid working with me that morning turned on the news. While I was unloading the milk, he said something about a plane crashing into one of the Twin Towers in New York City. A few minutes later, he said they were reporting a second plane had crashed into the other tower. I thought the first crash was a terrible accident. When the second plane hit, I knew this was something much worse.
We continued listening while we worked (or tried to) hoping the news would tell us why this was happening. It wasn't long before they began reporting a plan hit the Pentagon, and another one crashing somewhere else, maybe the White House. I started scanning the skies for any planes flying over us, wondering if we would be hit as well.
Finally, word came over the radio that this was a coordinated terrorist attack by some group whose name I couldn't pronouce, led by a man whose name I wouldn't learn or remember for a few weeks. The devotional that morning (which BYU has every Tuesday) was cancelled, and instead we were asked to gather for a time of quiet reflection and prayer - for ourselves, for the ones surely lost in the attacks, and the families affected.
The thing I remember most about that day is how I felt - scared, even terrified as news of the attacks came in, saddened by growing tally of lives lost. But when the radio started playing patriotic music - God Bless the USA is the song I remember hearing the most - I felt united with everyone in this country. We were ALL shocked, we were ALL scared, we were ALL affected. And this tragedy united us. For days and weeks afterward, people were talking to strangers, sharing stories, waving flags, singing about their love of America. We all lost someone, or knew someone who lost a loved one, in those attacks, and we bonded together.
Now, eight years later, we are anything BUT united. We've forgotten how we felt on 9/11, and 9/12, and 9/13, and gone back to squabbling and bickering and even hating each other. How can we go back to the unity we had? What will it take to bring us back together? Another 9/11? I hope not. I pray not. But the old saying is truer now than ever - united we stand, divided we fall. If we won't stand together now, it won't be a matter of 'if' we fall, but when and how hard.