I lived in a town right outside Manhattan on September 11, 2001 (when the 9/11 attacks happened). I remember being in school that morning when, all of a sudden, children were being pulled out of classes with no explanation. They did not return. We knew something big was going on, but were left in the dark until we went home later and watched the news. So many people lost family and friends in these attacks. Kind, caring people, mothers and fathers of friends I grew up with. Some were never found.
What I remember most in the aftermath of this day was unity. The unity in our shared grief, unity in being proud Americans, and unity in our determination to fight against terrorism.
When the October 7 attacks happened, I was immediately prepared for unity in the face of terror once again. Instead, what I saw was the dismissal of grief, justification of terrorism, calls of hatred against an entire group of people (Jews), followed by physical acts of violence against this same group of people. I saw friends – whose main source of “news” was social media – post hateful images and donate money to the same people who killed, tortured, and kidnapped innocent men, women, and children without remorse.
If someone explicitly tells you they are going to slaughter your family and then acts upon it, you are going to defend yourself if you want to live. Hamas have explicitly stated the intention to eliminate Jews, and then acted upon these statements. This is not the first time – and will not be the last – as long as Hamas remains in power. Wars are awful. Death is awful. Terrorism is awful.
Freedom is a major factor in current discussions. Israel is a place of freedom. Israelis, Arabs, and people of many different cultures and religions live freely and with equal rights in Israel. In order for the Palestinian people in Gaza to have freedom as well, they cannot continue to live under the control of a terrorist organization that is against peace, freedom, and democratic values.
After expressing devastation following the attacks to my friends, I was met with kindness from some and aggression and dismissal from others. There has been so much hate and arguing over “sides” when, instead, we could be supporting one another’s pain and grief. There has been so much anger when, instead, we could be acknowledging a shared hope for freedom and peace. Instead of demonizing one side or group, why not stand together, hand-in-hand to fight for the freedom so many of us have said we desire?
We could stand together to support the freedom of hostages held captive by terrorists.
We could stand together to support the freedom of innocent Palestinians in Gaza.
We could stand together to condemn terrorism.
We could stand together to support an end to violence through an unconditional surrender by Hamas.
We could stand together to mourn for those who were brutally killed on October 7th, and for all the lives that continue to be lost each day this war goes on.
We could stand together.