A renewed appreciation

As 2001 draws to a close, we must remember that life has gone on with little outward change despite the world-shifting events of September 11.

As we wade through December, the stress of exams and papers feels no different. People still ebb and flow through university hallways much as they have for more than 40 years, and classes go on. Christmas and New Year’s Day will probably also come and go with little fanfare. But this is not to say that absolutely nothing changed–at least not outwardly so.

Therefore, as 2001 ends, it is prudent to look back on the year as a whole and reflect on what it really meant for us.

In many senses our lives evolved. But the fact of the matter is that the one event this entire year will be remembered for does not encompass everything else that happened in the world and that everything happened to us. Our day-to-day lives are not very different, despite any change in mentality suffered at the hands of terrorism. Let us not forget that terrorism is something parts of the world have suffered for years.

Therefore, while the human loss was significant, nothing special happened to North Americans that hasn’t happened in other parts of the world for decades. We are not unique in our “suffering.” In reality, we only got a tiny taste of experiences others in the world deal with a lot more often. Perhaps we should consider that doling out more carnage in response to the attacks is ultimately sad. At the very least, we must vehemently believe that the murder of civilians–of several nationalities–never justifies the murder of others elsewhere.

And yes, we also earned a new vocabulary that includes abstractions like sunset clauses, air marshals and anthrax. Such words are always batted around in the media following anything significant, but so what? What outwardly changed between friends, families and teachers? The stress of exams and the loss of sleep still remained a universal student experience synonymous with December.

Something else remained the same too, and not for the better. For all the expulsion of our woes and the outpouring of grief, it is also sad that little changed in terms of reaching a new perspective. Few now ask themselves if some kind of blithe ignorance allowed this to happen, and if it did, why we’ve yet to do anything about it. The mentality goes like this: they inflicted some grave injustice upon us, but it has nothing to do with anything we did. Such a belief is simply incorrect.

Finally, some would even hazard the guess that several positives resulted from the experiences of September 11. This holiday season, we have something fairly significant to be thankful for although it is perhaps unfortunate if it takes a terrorist attack to make this the case. It is valuable to stop, look around and see that the more enviable human qualities of generosity and compassion still remain. It is valuable to stop and appreciate a sunny winter day and revel, if only for a moment, in the glory of being alive.

The year 2001 was a year of great change and history, but one event in the story of the world should not skew us to forget about the humanistic qualities that really matter, and may ultimately be our saving grace.


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