In the weeks after the horrific events of September 11, 2001, Americans felt a wide range of powerful emotions: mourning, loss, anger, and fright. We also felt the strong resurgence of patriotism and the desire to care for each other. Every merchant in the country from restaurants to car dealerships sold some sort of patriotic momento. The most popular item by far was a US flag lapel pin. It seemed like everyone was wearing one, and not just on their suit lapels; they could be found pinned to blouses, backpacks, hats, and t-shirts. When I saw someone wearing one of these pins we shared an unspoken communication: “I’m proud to be an American, and I’m feeling all the same things that you are.” In that moment I could both offer and receive solace and strength from another. No matter our differences of race, political party, state of residence, religion, sexual orientation, or social status, I knew we were more alike than we were different, and that sense of community compounded with every shared glance.
I wore my flag pin nearly every day for months. In 2001, I wore it for healing. This week I wore it to remember the many lives that were lost on that blue-skied day, and to honor the many more lives which have been irrevocably changed as a result. I also wore it as a symbol of hope, that once again we could feel our similarities more than our differences.