In the heart of downtown Manhattan a little girl once stood, staring at the towering skyscrapers that loomed above her. From where she stood, she felt as if she was a meaningless dot in a vast and ever-changing world. Her eyes were fixated across the street, where less than a decade before the twin towers had stood, and she was suddenly struck by a sense of overwhelming fear. In her mind she could picture her father, climbing up the stairs from the subway as the second tower was hit. It was the first day his wife had gone back to work, his daughter of only six months back at home. Above him the sky was black on a crystal clear day and as he watched history go down, he saw the people go down with it. What he at first thought had to be debris turned out to be people jumping to their death. He would relay this unimaginable horror to her countless times, but at that moment it resonated with her in a way it hadn’t before. She felt the voices of those who perished call out to her from the rooftops of the skyscrapers, as if the city itself was alive. It was then she realized the scale of the world, the vast unknown that played beyond her knowledge and suddenly she felt extremely insignificant.
From where I stand today, I still feel very similar to my younger self. While many say the world has only gotten smaller, I can tell you that it doesn’t help me in my quest to find my place within it. Our world is undergoing tremendous changes and everything we have known about life, loss, and connectivity is changing at an exceptionally fast pace. What has brought me unexpected comfort is the fact that with this change, none of our places are permanent. My place is elusive because our world is in constant motion, transforming for better or for worse. As a native New Yorker born in 2001, I have not known a world where terrorism does not exist, it’s threat growing with each passing day. I was less than six months old, but I feel as if those events have shaped the lens from which I view our world. It was once a thought we shoved into the back of our brain, but it has become harder to keep it there. I often question what the world will be like by the time I have children. I question if it is a world I want them to live in.
From where I stand, I wonder if we have let the power of our fingertips go to our head. The trouble with our society is each time a terrorist attack occurs, we automatically go right to our cell-phones and laptops, tweeting away our condolences, fears, and opinions. Yes, this connectivity and unification is great, but where has it gotten us? Has it stopped terrorist organizations like ISIS or Boko Haram from striking again? No, it hasn’t. After a week or so, whatever happens is either replaced or forgotten about. We move on with our lives, keep pushing on as if nothing has happened. The hashtags are no longer trending and people’s profile pictures return to normal, but there is still something lingering in the air. Maybe you are one of the people who think ‘it could be me next’ or perhaps you are the kind of person to think to yourself, ‘thank goodness it wasn’t me’. Perhaps you are like me, unsure of what to make of it.
From where I stand, I am confused by our world. I ask myself how all of this hatred between groups of people began and how as humanity we allowed it to get to this point. We did not realize that our bitterness would grow until it became our whole beings. We did not see that the tension we ourselves created can very well be the downfall of our kind. Humanity as a whole chose to foster hostility on every chance we were given, instead of trying to eradicate the hatred we had for our own brothers and sisters. We made the choice to discriminate against those who were not like us, to see the things that break us apart instead of what unites us as one. I often wonder if this will be a hump in eternity, or be leading to the end of time itself. I often find myself lying awake, one word shouting in my head over and over: why. Why, I ask myself, have we turned out so cynical? Why, I ask myself, do we feel the need to kill the innocent? Why, I ask myself, does it have to be this way?
From where I stand, I make the decision to wake up each morning and tell myself that it doesn’t. I tell myself that change is possible. I see this change from a kind face that opens a door, a child’s toothless grin, a touching note from a near stranger. Most of all, I see this change in the minds of my generation, who have grown up in this new era and embraced cultural differences as the human spirit. However, we can not settle and say there are enough people to save humanity. We must tell ourselves to become those people. We must never say I have done enough already, but ask what I have yet to do. We must not wait for the next person to save us, for it may be too late.
From where I stand, I have hope. I have hope that one day we will overcome the challenges we face, that we will one day live in a place where we respect each other with the utmost dignity. I want to see the day where we celebrate humanity as one, that our differences bind us and build us. Going from a fearful child to an aware young adult, I have vowed to live wholly and fully. Though the world still scares me, I tell myself that if I have doubt, then who will have optimism? Unlike the little girl I once was, I remind myself that I count just as much as the next person, that it is fully my option to make my time on this planet positive or negative.
Wherever you stand, there are a million different directions to look in. I’ve learned it’s okay to sometimes feel confused, to feel fearful, to feel small, and to glance in the direction of what scares you the most.
From where I stand, I know humanity has a long way to go, but if we stand together I believe we can change our course.