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This week . . .

September 9, 2009

So far this week has been a rainy one here in Washington and though it’s apparent that there are more people in the city now that Congress is back in session it has not been as crazy as I had expected. So why is this week any different than others you might ask? This Friday marks the 8th Anniversary of 9/11, a date which is now so much a part of our everyday vocabulary that it’s hard to remember what it was like when September 11th was just like any other day in the early fall. I’m sure this date conjures up different thoughts and feelings for each person, but for me, it is a yearly reminder of my first day of high school. I can remember seeing a glimpse of a TV screen in a coach’s office and thinking to myself, those images can’t be real. But, regardless of what facts you do or don’t take as true about 9/11, the images of the destruction of that day, and the pain that has followed for millions of people is real.

I say millions of people because when you really think about what 9/11 has led to, the bigger picture is staggering. When simply looking at the cost of the wars that followed that day eight years ago, the numbers are difficult to comprehend: (All stats from AFSC: http://www.countdowntowithdrawal.org/)

130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and 62,000 in Afghanistan,
A combined total of 5,148 U.S. military personal killed,
And an estimated total of over 1,000,000 Iraqi civilians killed, with unknown and growing figures of Afghan civilians added every day.

These numbers are sobering, and yet it is almost hard to imagine what life would be like without having these figures? I feel very lucky to have grown up in a country where I am free and safe to learn and explore, as many others do not have those benefits. At the same time, I have grown up in a world dominated by talk of terrorism and war – something which I hope will change over time.

I realize that unfortunately, these are current, ‘facts of life,’ but do they have to be? I’m not suggesting that our world can go back to pre-9/11 days. I do however hold on to hope for peace and understanding.

If there is one thing I have learned from my travels abroad and my contact with cultures different from my own, it is that more often than not, I find myself rethinking what I thought I knew. Just because a person comes from a culture different from my own is no reason for me to fear them – rather, it should be used as an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of other human beings and their ways of life. Here’s a thought/challenge – what if each of us took time everyday to learn something new about people we might normally think of as the ‘other’? I would guess it would then be much more difficult to believe the worst of others…. Give it a try!

Peace,
~Rachael


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