Today is September 11.
It’s another anniversary of the day that changed our world.
Another anniversary when we remember the fallen.
Remember the heros.
Remember the families and friends left behind.
We remember the images. The black smoke. One crumbling tower. Then a second one. People in bewilderment and fear, running down dust-choked streets. A collapsed section of the Pentagon.
Later, a smoldering field in rural Pennsylvania.
The Stars and Stripes standing tall amid a tangled mess of debris and shattered lives.
Todd Beamer’s recorded voice saying, “Let’s roll.”
We Americans are full of pride, almost instilled from birth as soon as we slip from our mother’s womb. We are practically swaddled in the Stars and Stripes. Kindergartners learn to place tiny hands over tiny hearts and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
We teach our children about respecting the flag and how to stand during the national anthem.
We love our red, white and blue. We love our history, our revolution against a king.
We love kicking butt in the Olympics. We love feeling like we’re Number One. We put men on the moon. We are a nation of winners and inventors and industrialists and educators and people out to take on the world before anyone can take it from us.
The world is a scary place. Sometimes in the fringes, sometimes blatantly out in the open, there are people whose very natures are dark. Like those who brought 9/11 into our lives. They live for the fear. They desire revenge. They see our pride, our arrogance and deem us unworthy.
But for each dark moment, for each tattered soul that lives to destroy, for each shattering event that calls into question our humanity for each other, there is light.
There is sweetness and innocence and compassion and hope.
It’s in the children who proudly set up a neighborhood lemonade stand to raise money for the local animal shelter.
It’s in those who create charming lending libraries at the end of their driveway so their neighbors can get lost in a new adventure.
It’s in the high school students who host fundraisers for a paralyzed classmate’s medical care.
It’s in the community members who build homes for Habitat for Humanity.
It’s in the shelters who help the abused and the abandoned, the neglected and the homeless, find a warm meal, a clean bed, a safe place.
It’s in the ALS bucket challenge, the Plunge for Landon Shaw.
It’s in the benefit dinner for a cancer patient.
It’s the community members who take an idea for a junior golf course and work to make it a reality.
It's in those who support a project to help disabled people bring home a paycheck and a sense of worthiness.
It’s in our teachers and our hospitals and our civic groups.
It’s the celebrities and athletes who use their fame and fortune to bring kindness and resources to those most in need.
It’s in groups like Wounded Warriors and the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.
It’s in every local business that shares its time, talents and money with their community.
It’s in the welcoming faces of people like Maryville Hy-Vee greeter Fred Mares who make you feel like you’re the most important person in the world.
Do not think for one damn second that the bad guys are winning.
Do not think for one damn second our world is beyond hope, beyond help.
While days like 9/11 make our hearts heavy, I know that the goodness of man rejoices. Our world is not perfect. Too many people around the world are at the mercy of the powerful. Too few own and control too much.
But I still believe there is more light than darkness, no matter how desperate some moments seem.
What life post-9/11 has taught me is to grab on to those moments of light. Use them to blast at the shadows of those who’d bring darkness to a world that is not always kind.
Be a light in your own corner of the world. Fight the shadows.