+
upworthy
More

What September 11, 2001, taught me about kindness.

I had been at my new job in Washington, D.C. for exactly one week when the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 began.

I worked for a publication called The Hotline, a daily political briefing catering to the most diehard insiders in and around Washington. Our readership was small but influential—subscribers ponied up $5,000 annually. Years before blogs and Twitter, if you wanted to know what was really happening in politics, you read The Hotline.

As usual, work began before 6 a.m. that day, with the sun just beginning to rise over the Potomac River, its rays slowly filtering through the glass-windowed wall of our little newsroom tucked inside the historic Watergate complex.


The office was encircled by roughly a dozen television screens hanging from the ceiling so that we could see what was happening across every cable news channel simultaneously by simply looking up from the roughly 200 newspapers we were tasked with methodically scanning each morning for any relevant bit of political news.

It was just after 8:45 a.m.—before the vast majority of people on the East Coast had arrived to work, and while most of the West Coast was still asleep—when news broke that an aircraft had collided with the north tower of the World Trade Center.

My colleagues paused briefly to take it in; we assumed it was a tragic accident, nothing more, and went back to work.

Less than 20 minutes later, a second plane, United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston, crashed into the South Tower.

I rushed across the room to tell my boss Chuck Todd—today the renowned host of NBC’s “Meet the Press”—that I had just seen a second crash occurring live.

“You’re seeing a replay,” he assured me. I walked back to my desk, wondering how I could have seen a “replay” of an event the media wasn’t really covering until after the fact.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

It wasn’t even an hour later when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. We could see the smoke trail ascending into the sky just a few short miles away from our office.

By the time the gravity of the situation had set in, nearly every office in the Watergate had been evacuated, save for ours. Atlantic Media’s CEO David Bradley came down to assure us that anyone who wanted to leave could. Not a single person budged. Most of us were recent graduates from state colleges. The Hotline had given us an opportunity most would otherwise never have known, an oasis of meritocracy in a city catering to Ivy League children of privilege. We knew we were witnessing history and wanted to play our part, however small.

As I typed away on my desktop computer, a report (later proved false) began circulating that a fifth plane had been spotted heading down the Potomac toward the Watergate, home to political luminaries such as Bob Dole and then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.

I peeked out my office window half expecting to see a jetliner barreling directly toward me. Seeing an empty horizon, I just went back to work.

Strangely, I wasn’t the least bit afraid. People later would say I was in shock, still processing the unfolding events.

But the truth was that moving from a small town in Oregon to a place like Washington, D.C. was already so overwhelming that on some level I simply assumed that what was happening was normal. And I honestly never really believed that either I or our country were in any real danger.

In the coming days, Chuck Todd began assigning us respective areas of post-9/11 coverage.

My beat—at the time a throwaway assignment for the most junior person on staff—was to track hate crimes against Muslim and Arab Americans across the United States.

And while there were many incidents of violence, xenophobia, and religious intolerance (the FBI reports there were roughly 500 incidents of hate crimes against Muslim Americans in 2001), the predominant theme in D.C. was one of Americans going out of their way to embrace their neighbors, whether they were Muslim, Arab American, or otherwise.

US Muslims listen to speeches 13 September, 2001 in Pasadena CA, at an Interfaith Memorial Service for victims of 11 September terrorist attacks on New York and Washington DC. Lucy Nicholson/Getty Images/

All around Washington, there were small gestures of kindness and tolerance.

Many people assumed a local restaurant in my neighborhood, The Afghan Grill, would be boycotted or protested. Instead, it became nearly impossible to get a table as people flocked to learn more about the country’s cuisine and support the restaurant’s owners.

Meanwhile, directly across the street from the entrance to the Watergate was the Saudi Arabian embassy. Employees were warned to expect a flash of protests and suspicious activity after it was revealed that 15 of the 19 hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia. I never saw a single protestor. The only noticeable activity took place when Michael Moore’s film crew shot a scene there for his documentary film Fahrenheit 911.

Ironically, perhaps no public figure better encapsulated D.C.’s adherence to restraint and tolerance than President Bush himself. Despite his shortcomings, his response to Muslim Americans, and Islam itself, in the wake of the tragedy is undeniably compelling today. Nine days after the attacks, he said during an address to Congress:

“We respect your [Muslim] faith… Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah. The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself. The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends. It is not our many Arab friends.”

The unity expressed in the days and weeks following 9/11 was a truly exceptional moment.

Since then, the only one that’s come close for me was the near universal sense of pride on the faces of Americans in New York City and Washington, D.C. the day after Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Now, 17 years later, I can’t help but wonder when or how we ended up at such a cultural crossroads.

The president speaks of setting up barriers, literal and figurative, to keep Muslims out of America.

Anti-Muslim hate crimes remain far higher than their pre-9/11 levels.

And many progressives are unwilling to confront the continued threat from extremist groups such as ISIS at the risk of sounding politically incorrect.

We’ve been doing a better job separating ourselves from each other than from those who would do us real harm both here and abroad.

I’ve been told that I was on the “front lines” of September 11, 2001. I resist that description; I never saw a dead body and never truly feared for my own safety, naively or otherwise.

What I did see was how my city, and our nation, responded to a real crisis—with kindness. Back in 2003, Muhammad Ali told journalist Cal Sussman that in his eyes, true evil didn’t necessarily require overt action, merely a lack of kindness.

Stories of kindness and tolerance are rarely covered by the media. I’d like to hope that it’s because they happen so often, they aren’t really newsworthy.

But along with everything else that’s changed in the last 17 years, the media has been radically democratized. You don’t have pay $5,000 to find out what’s really happening, and I think that’s a great thing.

I’d encourage all of us to share stories of kindness—to move the conversation forward with open eyes and open ears. It would go a long way toward restoring some of that post-9/11 unity, no tragedy required.

This story originally appeared on GOOD.


We all know that Americans pay more for healthcare than every other country in the world. But how much more?

According an American expatriate who shared the story of his ER visit in a Taiwanese hospital, Americans are being taken to the cleaners when we go to the doctor. We live in a country that claims to be the greatest in the world, but where an emergency trip to the hospital can easily bankrupt someone.

Kevin Bozeat had that fact in mind when he fell ill while living in Taiwan and needed to go to the hospital. He didn't have insurance and he had no idea how much it was going to cost him. He shared the experience in a now-viral Facebook post he called "The Horrors of Socialized Medicine: A first hand experience."

Keep ReadingShow less
With permission from Sarah Cooper.

Men and the feels.


Note: This an excerpt is from Sarah Cooper's book, How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men's Feelings.

In this fast-paced business world, female leaders need to make sure they're not perceived as pushy, aggressive, or competent.

One way to do that is to alter your leadership style to account for the fragile male ego.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

Man lists 8 not fun, but very important things you need to start doing as an adult.

"Welcome to being an adult. Maybe you weren't told this by your parents, but this is through my trial and error."

@johnfluenzer/TikTok

8 things you should be doing as an adult. Spoiler alert—none of them are fun.

Who among us hasn’t come into full adulthood wishing they had known certain things that could have made life so so so much easier in the long run? Choices that, if made, ultimately would have been much better for our well-being…not to mention our wallets.

But then again that is all part of growing older and (hopefully) wiser. However there is something to be said about getting advice from those who’ve been there, rather than learning the hard way every single time.

Thankfully, a man who goes by @johnfluenzer on TikTok has a great list of things young people should start doing once they become adults. Are any of his suggestions fun, cool or trendy? Not at all. But they are most definitely accurate. Just ask any 30+-year-olds who wished they had done at least four of these things.
Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

Her boyfriend asked her to draw a comic about their relationship. Hilarity ensued.

The series combines humor and playful drawings with spot-on depictions of the intense familiarity that long-standing coupledom often brings.

All images by Catana Chetwynd


"It was all his idea."

An offhand suggestion from her boyfriend of two years coupled with her own lifelong love of comic strips like "Calvin and Hobbes" and "Get Fuzzy" gave 22-year-old Catana Chetwynd the push she needed to start drawing an illustrated series about long-term relationships.

Specifically, her own relationship.

Keep ReadingShow less
Identity

My wife surprised her coworkers when she came out as trans. Then they surprised her.

She was ready for one reaction but was greeted with a beautiful response.

All photos by Amanda Jette, used with permission.

Zoe comes out to her coworkers.


Society, pay attention. This is important.

My wife, Zoe, is transgender. She came out to us — the kids and me — last summer and then slowly spread her beautiful feminine wings with extended family, friends, and neighbors.

A little coming out here, a little coming out there — you know how it is.

Keep ReadingShow less


It started with a simple, sincere question from a mother of an 11-year-old boy.

An anonymous mother posted a question to Quora, a website where people can ask questions and other people can answer them. This mother wrote:

How do I tell my wonderful 11 year old son, (in a way that won't tear him down), that the way he has started talking to me (disrespectfully) makes me not want to be around him (I've already told him the bad attitude is unacceptable)?

It's a familiar scenario for those of us who have raised kids into the teen years. Our sweet, snuggly little kids turn into moody middle schoolers seemingly overnight, and sometimes we're left reeling trying to figure out how to handle their sensitive-yet-insensitive selves.


Keep ReadingShow less