If you’re like us, when an anniversary as important as 9/11 approaches, you want to do something, but you’re not sure what. So as often as not, you just spend the day like any other.
Here are nine suggestions for commemorating 9/11 that may help you reconnect with that terrible day, as well as some of the valuable lessons it taught us (if in some cases we’ve already forgotten them):
1. Fly an American flag. Outside your door, on your lawn, or on your car. It’s the one symbol that binds us, and we’re all in this together.
2. Take time to reflect on the loved ones you have lost during your lifetime. Think about how much they meant to you; it will help you relate better to the emotions of the 9/11 victims’ families — as well as the families of all those who have died in war and terror in 9/11’s wake.
3. Treat people the way you did in the days immediately after the 9/11 attacks. Don’t honk your horn in traffic. Smile and say “good morning” to strangers you pass on the street. Call your friends and relatives just to tell them you care about them.
4. Listen at least twice as much as you talk. If you have a disagreement or confrontation with someone — over politics, religion, work or relationship issues, sports, you name it — try this exercise. Count it off in your head if you need to. Listening is learning; talking isn’t.
5. Don’t watch the major cable news channels. They simplify issues and stoke divisiveness to attract ratings; they’re about the heat of ego rather than the light of reason. If 9/11 taught us anything, it’s that the world needs more light and less heat.
6. Don’t listen to talk radio. Same reason.
7. Don’t read political blogs. Ditto.
8. Read the 9/11 Commission Report. We can best pay tribute to those lost, to those fighting, and to our own children by accepting our duty to be an informed citizenry. As Lee Hamilton says well, “In a democracy, public misperceptions carry an enormous cost.”
9. Finally, read the Bill of Rights. Consider it carefully, savoring every word.
[This post is a Media Orchard Classic.]