I was overseas in the UK when 9/11 happened. I made my way to London and participated in a moving, stirring prayer vigil — with people of many faiths from around the world. All seemed united in soulful remembrance of lives lost, while determined to honor the dead by building a better world. It took me several days to get back home. When I finally arrived, I hugged my wife and kids very tightly.
I remember well those early days after 9/11 when so many expressions of sympathy and solidarity poured in from all over the Mercy Corps world — especially from our Muslim colleagues and partners. I remember well the sense that prevailed in so many corners of America — that this tragedy can be redeemed, not by vengeance, but by justice and by using our shared solidarity as Americans as the way to build a better America.
So much has happened over these past 10 years. I have traveled frequently throughout the world, including many times to Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. As I reflect on events at home and abroad, I cannot help but be troubled. Too many lives have been lost — soldiers and innocent citizens — in response to 9/11. Vast resources have been expended with mixed, messy results and huge opportunity costs. Have the outcomes been worth the sacrifices? Is the world a safer, more just place? Is America a stronger, better country?
While vigilance against terrorism is necessary, I am troubled that we may have missed the opportunity to live up to our best virtues and values. To be sure, there was no clear right way forward, no simple pathway to justice, security and redemption. History will be the ultimate judge.
On this 10th anniversary, I remember those lives lost and shattered on that day. I humbly search my soul for deeper understanding. I feel privileged to have the opportunity through Mercy Corps to try and build a better, safer world and grateful for my many colleagues, partners and supporters. I know that we have to try even harder. Still, I am troubled. And I will hug my wife and kids even tighter.