On the morning of September 11, 2001, 2,996 people woke up and went to work for the last time.
They didn’t get to sink into the warmth of their bed or melt into the arms of a loved one after that long day. They didn’t get to hear soft whispers of “I love you” from their sleepy-eyed children. They never got to see the sunset. They never got to taste another midnight snack. They never got to smell another morning cup of coffee.
It was the most beautiful day. The kind of day that makes you breathe a little deeper and appreciate the beauty of the world you get to live in. The kind of day that makes you feel small and larger than life all at once. The kind of day where nothing can go wrong—because it’s just too beautiful.
I remember each moment of that day—from the subway ride to walking home over the Queensboro Bridge. I remember my clothes, my high heels and how my feet ached for days. I remember feeling grateful for the ache because it meant I was alive.
No one saw it coming but we mourned together. We helped each other. We respected each other. We loved each other.
On Wednesday, December 10, 2020, 3,124 people died. 128 more lives than on September 11th.
A vaccine will not save us from climate change.
A vaccine will not save us from pollution.
A vaccine will not save us from overflowing landfills.
A vaccine will not save us from hate.
A vaccine will not save us from ourselves.
Only we can do that.
Wednesday was beautiful too. The sun shone bright and the weather was temperate, but this time we all saw it coming. December 10, 2020 will not be etched into the memories of most people. We didn’t mourn the loss of life together. We didn’t respect each other. We didn’t love each other.
Instead, with each passing day we dig our heels deeper into our side of the proverbial line. We carelessly toss insults like grenades toward our friends and neighbors on the other side of it. We make no attempts to meet in the middle.
We beat our chests and share false information across social media with reckless abandon.
Where do we go from here?
How will we explain ourselves to our children or grandchildren?
Hospitals are overwhelmed. Healthcare workers reached their breaking point long ago, but continue to save lives and shout into a void, begging people to respect each other—to love each other—enough to wear a shield to protect our neighbors against an invisible enemy.
Rebel against racism. Rebel against hate. Rebel against false information. Rebel against climate change. Rebel against pollution. Don’t rebel over a shield. Meet your neighbors in the middle, wear your shield and hold the line.