Of course, this Sunday will be the 10th anniversary of 9/11. As a member of the so-called “9/11 Generation,” the events of that Tuesday morning shaped a good portion of my life and helped define my view of the world. I can only vaguely remember the days when you didn't have to say goodbye to friends and family before they went through airport security. I can only vaguely remember the days when TSA didn’t randomly pat people down before a flight. I can vaguely remember, as a kid who grew up in the prosperity of the 90s, thinking that America was invincible. What I distinctly remember, however, is how I felt when I watched the second plane crash into the World Trade Center on live TV. Even more distinctly, I recall the feelings of unity, patriotism, and tolerance in the weeks that followed. Strangers were more kind. The national anthem was sung at football games with more exuberance than before. People filled the church pews in greater numbers. For a short period of time, we were truly “One Nation Under God.”
As the events of the subsequent decade unfolded, we lost much of the unity, tolerance, and kindness we shared immediately following the attacks. Once again, politics became partisan. Religious intolerance returned, and in some instances may have become worse than before. In a recent study on tolerance of diversity in America post-9/11, it was shown that Catholics and Jews are viewed favorably by 83% and 84% of Americans, respectively. However, Mormons are viewed favorably by only 67% of the American public, and American Muslims are viewed favorably by only 57%. The study also found that only 47% of Americans consider Mormons to be Christian. The low numbers of tolerance of certain religious groups, including Mormons and Muslims, seems to be in contrast to the American public’s general view of religious tolerance. 88% of “Americans agree that America was founded on the idea of religious freedom for everyone, including” unpopular religious groups. Additionally, 95% of Americans think that “all religious books should be treated with respect.” If this is so, then why is there a double-standard? What happened to the strength we found as a society in our moment of weakness?
As many of you may be aware, President Thomas S. Monson was a guest columnist for the Washington Post yesterday. President Monson likewise notes that “Americans of all faiths came together in a remarkable way” post-9/11, but we soon forgot the lessons we learned in the “depth of grief.” The prophet encouraged all Americans to return to the unity and tolerance we were forced to discover, and not turn to God only in our times of need, because “we truly ‘need Him every hour,’ not just in hours of devastation.” Hopefully we can all heed this counsel, and allow this time of reflection to remind us of the unity and kindness we all felt toward one another 10 years ago.