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DEAR READERS: It’s hard to believe that it has been 20 years since the world changed forever — since those planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. All of us who were alive at the time have stories of exactly where we were and what we were doing when this hateful act of terror was com- mitted. 9/11 is imprinted on our brains. During this moment of reflection, I want to ask all of us to pause and take a look back. Where were you? What was happening in your life? How has your life changed?
I was in New York City, headed from my office in Greenwich Village to Bryant Park, some 20 blocks away, to go to New York Fashion Week. I remember that people were standing in the street looking up as I rushed to get into a taxi to make it to my show. The announcement of the crash occurred as I was watching a maternity show — there was a literal parade of pregnant women on a runway, showcasing the promise of life at the precise moment when the towers fell and so many lost their lives.
I remember the eerie cloud that hovered over downtown Manhattan for weeks before winds blew the stench and all that it contained all over the city. I remember everyone being stuck. It was as if time stood still. And when our country and its citizens snapped back to life, it felt like we were emerging out of a daze and into reaction mode. An eye for an eye. Anger. Fear. Hatred. Distrust.
Of course, we had to make efforts to protect our borders although, sadly, domestic terrorism seems now to be a bigger threat. But the fear that colored our lenses about people from other parts of the world has not served us well. We began to look with even greater hostility at anybody who didn’t “look like us.”
And that is what I want us to reconsider today. What I see as the greatest need in our lives right now is to claim a refreshed way of looking at our world and at each other. Instead of assuming the worst, what if we assumed the best? I do not mean that we should ignore danger signs or open the borders wide. I do mean that we can choose to look for goodness in people rather than making assumptions about who they are and what they believe. We can also choose to learn about people who are different from us. What are their motivations? What chal- lenges do they face? What is their history?
If you think about recent years in our country and throughout the world, suspicions and judgments about others have reached an all-time high. How can we reverse that? How can we see others for who they are and who they can become rather than for the stereotypes that hang over them?
I ask this with full sincerity because I believe that each one of us has the ability to bring peace in this world. Yes, the government has its role. Yes, businesses have responsibilities, as do civic leaders. But, more important, we can honor the more than 3,000 souls we lost 20 years ago — and the thousands more who have since died because of hate — by choosing to live honorably. We can make the effort each day to see the goodness in each other, to choose to uplift rather than to tear each other down. As you contemplate how you have treated others over these past 20 years, keep in mind that you have the opportunity to uplift humanity right now. That is a powerful choice. Let’s all make it.