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The cost of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, can be measured in concentric circles of death, fear and change. Ultimately, however, we feel there is hope for a better world.
Deaths from the terrorist attacks continue to rise: nearly 3,000 on American soil on Sept. 11, then thousands of American troops and civilians from other countries killed in the years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Fear has been insinuated into our consciousness. The U.S. now too often looks like a place where too many residents have become suspicious of people who do not look like them, a country where too many are distrustful of a government that has played too loosely with civil liberties, a country where too many are quick to be victims and slow to be forgiving, and a place where desire for money and power have displaced compassion.
Change has come to this country. Anxiety abounds, even in our personal lives. When we travel, we pack for airplane trips differently, stand in more lines, undergo more scrutiny. Security for public events is sometimes less visible but almost always more intensely planned. We are becoming a country that is losing its stature in the world because of discord and dysfunction within, because mediocrity has become acceptable and violence, tolerable.
These costs are monstrous, and they are a terrible price to pay for our having been victims of a heinous series of attacks. A victim of any attack is stunned, wounded and catapulted into a sphere of anxiety and anger. And so we have been for too long in this country.
But the tide of victimhood is receding and it may be that we are regaining our foothold in the world.
There is hope in this country, and much hope to be found in Evanston. In September of 2001, more than 1,000 people lined Ridge Avenue in a candlelight vigil, mourning the victims of the terrorist attacks and hoping for a resolution that would entail strength of leadership, and, many hoped, not of armaments.
Ten years later, the Evanston community came together to mark the anniversary, first gathering at the lakefront for a ceremony of mourning and remembrance. The Peaceable Cities Evanston walk in the afternoon from the Dar-us-Sunnah Masjid and Community Center to the Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation synagoguewas a start in helping to bridge some of the social gaps here: During the two-mile walk, people “swapped” partners, walking with visitors or those from different wards for ten minutes. These frequent but subtle shifts allowed the participants to learn and to find common ground as they walked.
If there are lessons to be drawn from the 10-year anniversary they might be these: Honor the fallen; remember the past; and walk in peace with your neighbors.