Earlier this year, I took a little trip to New York City. I decided to go to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum because I felt I needed to pay my respects.
I was fourteen in 2001. Just old enough to remember clearly what America was like before this terrible day, and have watched so much change from that day forward.
On my way to the memorial, I was busy paying attention to where I was going and was busy listening to my friend as she gave me directions on how to get to the airport from the WTC. I recognized the memorial across the highway from pictures I’d seen. But when I walked up, and saw these words on the stone, a million images flashed through my memory in a brief moment like a Rolodex. The burning building. The second plane flying. The impact. The horror. The falling debris, flames, and people. The people running, terrified, with handkerchiefs and scarves covering their mouths. The piles of rubble, crushing who knew how many people. And then, the two giant smoking holes in the ground. Those holes are now pristine memorial fountains, but they were designed to withstand hurricanes. Who ever knew those holes would hold so much more? Yes, the two holes in the New York skyline are much heavier.
All I could do was weep.
I wept more that day than I did when I was fourteen. In the 15 years of aftermath of this terrible day, I’ve lived enough life at this point to know the country I grew up knowing has never been the same since that day. And I’m wise enough now to know we can never go back. It took me fifteen years and three hours of late morning on a Tuesday to process my sadness from September 11, 2001. Grief is a strange, strange beast.
As I wandered through the museum, I found myself surrounded by some French people, and one grief-stricken French woman said, “Il était comme Paris…” It took me a minute to understand her, as my high school French has gotten rusty, but as soon as I recognized it, I turned to find her. I wanted to reach out to her and hold her hand and say, “I know. I remember your country flying your flags at half-mast in mourning of this horrible day. You wept with us. And we wept with you, too.” But she was lost in the crowd of tears.
None of this has anything to do directly with Korea, but I have seen my viewpoint on globalization change in my short time here, and I think on a smaller level, this moment in New York was preparing me for my year(s) here. Our world is so much smaller than we think, and so much simpler. Grief looks the same on all faces in the world. Fatigue in the fluorescent subway lighting isn’t flattering on anyone. Anger is still loud and abrasive. And, thankfully, of course, the happier feelings look the same as well. Tickle fights between siblings. Running to embrace at the subway after a long journey. Daddies sharing cokes with their children when away from mommies. The smiles, the laughter, the tears. It’s all the same, no matter where you go.
Human life is always the same, and it always matters. I may not understand the language here, or the customs, but everyday I see more and more that as people, there is so much more that unites us than divides us. I may not have any answers for solving our worlds problems, but this truth seems like a good place to start.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. – 1 Corinthians 13:13