I Wish it Was Still September 12th

For those of us in the fire and emergency services, we just completed another somber and serious reminder of September 11, 2001. I call it my generation’s “Day of Infamy.” Just like President Roosevelt declared the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 as a day of infamy, the surprise attack on the Twin Towers in New York, the Pentagon and the crash in Shanksville, PA; September 11 placed a deep and significant mark on us in emergency services. It was an unexpected attack of war and one that most of us will never forget.

However, that event was now 18 years ago. An entire generation has been born and grew up only reading about it and not understanding the pain and anguish of that day and the months following. Eighteen years is a long time and most of the people have put it on the shelf and moved on with life. Those who experienced that day can remember exactly where we were and what we were doing the moment we were told to turn on the television that day. It will never be forgotten of course.

I want to turn to a more positive experience that we all felt the very next day on September 12th.

On that day I believe the entire United States woke up and believed that we were one country united in one mission to protect the country at any cost. That feeling of unity and a clear sense of purpose has dramatically shifted away from that focus of the day after.

I grow more concerned every day when I think of the fact that people no longer even think about 9/11. They don’t generally think we could ever be attacked here on our domestic soil or that the terror and pain we experienced that day could happen again. I can understand that view based on their lack of experience.

What concerns me as an individual much more is the seemingly lack of solidarity and support for the country, we live in. Each day there is endless controversary over border issues, immigration, defense, budgets, fake news, shooting, guns, the environment, voting or any one of a dozen issues. It seems the only thing we can do as a country is to argue about our views and our positions on an issue. What ever happened to our ability to sit and discuss our differences and finding a way to work out things and find a place we could all agree to support to solve a problem. I feel like we have come to a place that our only goal is only to argue and not compromise. What ever happened to our real need to fix and repair things instead of constantly tearing things apart?

I realize we are now in a post 9/11 world where everyone opinions matter. Where we are about diversity and difference and not about the best decision for the majority of everyone not just the best for me. We are at a time of great change in the world. We are now truly a world economy and things that happen in China or elsewhere do impact what happens here in the United States.

So, the obvious question is how do we get back to working together towards a common goal instead of fighting down and dirty for what each individual desire?

I believe that we must first start by searching in our own soul as to what is important. We must decide first that there is a common goal and a common approach. We must accept the reality that we must all give a little to get things moving forward. We must accept the fact that there are many basic things we must resolve and agree on so we can fix key issues and make the progress we all need now.

Its not easy to achieve this. We must first take our personal wants down several notches and make them a “nice to do” instead of a “must do.” We must address our large common problems in a method and manner that allows for discussion and some give and take and not a demand. We both have to give a little so we can all gain a lot. Compromise is the right position. Tim Bradley of the North Carolina Firemen’s Association recently had a post on Facebook entitled Compromise and Conciliations. It summed this whole issue of conflict in a proper and historical way. He referenced Benjamin Franklin’s efforts to get the United States Constitution approved. His article makes good sense. To read it follow this link: https://ncsfa.com/compromise-and-conciliation

We must work towards unity of purpose and common needs instead of arbitrary actions and selfish needs of our own. Make the effort each day to find that common ground and common care. Take the time to try and understand the other person’s point of view and search for the answer that makes things work for everyone, not just you.

Remember how we were all bonded on September 12, 2001. All with one purpose and one goal.

Stay Safe!

Ken Farmer

Ken Farmer is Section Chief, Leadership and Fire Risk Reduction at the National Fire Academy, United States Fire Administration in Maryland. Email him at ken.farmer@dhs.gov.

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