Twenty years ago, like most of us, I woke up to news I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest nightmares. And it didn’t stop. Seeing the first tower hit in NYC was an image that felt not just incomprehensible, but non-duplicatable. Then the second tower was hit, and confusion, horror, and disbelief gave way to fear.  But what we thought was the end turned out to be only half the story, as the Pentagon took a direct hit, and the heroic passengers took down a plane in Pennsylvania — whose destination we can only speculate and fear. Watching the Netflix special this week brought it all back: the fear, the confusion, the panic, the sadness.

Especially the sadness.

Many remind us not to forget, and that’s fine. But a better spark, for me, is to always remember. Always remember the lives that were lost quite literally not knowing what hit them; the lives that were lost in the painful, tragic aftermath; the courageous souls who ran towards the unknown, and paid a heavy price in life and health. Remember how difficult it was to know what to do — what to do now, in that moment, and in the next. Remember how we were angry and fearful, wanting revenge and wanting understanding.

But what exactly do we want the real takeaway to be, 20 years removed? What exactly is that which we want to Always Remember?

A 20-year war, proved to cost more lives than were taken on that fateful day, with no tangible, sustainable win.

Hatred begat more hatred.

Fear begat more fear.

And the holes left in the hearts and lives of so, so many will never be filled.

So…remember what, exactly?

How about the love we feel for those we lost, and the promise to never take it for granted again?

Let us remember the fear, and promise never to be the cause of such fear on another soul.

Let us remember those who looked to one another for love, support, hugs, and community, without regard for our politics, race, or wealth.

Let us remember how easy it was to over-generalize a faith, a people, a look, because it reminded us of the evil of a few very bad people.

Let us always remember how close we are in our heart to hate, so we can remember how decisions driven from that hate never achieve their desired goals.

Let us remember that revenge is a terrible purpose.

Let us remember that our way isn’t the only way, and that there are real and conflicting issues, philosophies and challenges in the world. We aren’t designed to wholly agree, and we aren’t designed to kill for those differences either.

Let us remember, always, to honor those we lost with the promise to always do better, to form a more perfect union, to insure the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness for all.

Let us remember that those we lost have the power to catapult us to a higher level of humanity, and their leaving us too soon at least leaves us in a better place. Let us remember that is possible.

9-11-2001: Let us remember it as the day the world, in our hour of sorrow, evolved and emerged into greater peace and possibility.