September 11, 2010

Living in Puerto Rico on September 11th, 2001, I sometimes feel that I had an “outsider’s” view of the events and the impact on a nation.  Sure, all Puerto Ricans are American citizens, but we have a distinct culture and manner of thinking, especially on the island, that imparts a sort of independent dependence that ties islanders to the mainland via economics and national security, but separates them culturally and politically (they don’t subscribe to the Democrat vs. Republican banter that is ingrained in the mainland mentality, but instead have their own political parties).

That day, when I sat in a common TV room of the apartment building I was living in, watching the towers fall and mourning for the loss of an untold number of our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, I caught, what I now know, was a glimpse of a cross-section of the world.  Puerto Rico is still foreign enough, still independent enough to have a small segment of the population that hates the site of the American flag, which this crowd sees as a sign of imperialistic hegemony, but yet still connected enough that everyone has a family or friend in the U.S. or serving in the military.

I personally, kept a flag on my person at all times after that day, some may have rebuked it internally, few scoffed at it, some saluted it, but all respected it.   They respected it because they knew, whether through blood or tears, we all lost someone that day.  Reflecting on that time, it is now apparent that, despite the polarizing divergence of the extremes, an overall sense of deference was afforded the moment by people who are not represented in the media or celebrated in our thoughts; these people were the average citizens that understood and mourned because 9/11 was simply a tragedy to all of mankind.

Since that day so much has happened: Enron collapsed creating corporate panic, the space shuttle Columbia broke apart upon re-entry, Hurricane Katrina devastated a region, we have had two Olympics and World Cups, we elected the first minority U.S. President, and a recession changed our economic and political climate for generations.  But perhaps the most impactful events have been a war on two fronts that were a direct result of the catastrophe on 9/11.

No matter your view on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (or war in general) our soldiers have fought bravely for this country, sacrificing more than 4,000 souls for the cause.  Aside from the losses of these noble patriots many of us forget how many thousands have been injured.  But, more benign in nature is the simple sacrifice of one, two, or four years of a soldier’s life away from his/her family and most of the normal American comforts that we have at home.

Most of the time it is simply easier to put these thoughts out of mind, but this September 11th we should remind ourselves.  We must remember so that we will support our troops in their time of need.  We at The National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce would like to encourage you to take a few minutes and at least make the effort to send a thank you to a troop.  If you happen to be in a more benevolent spirit and can afford to do so, any donation would also be appreciated to one of our favorite funds, The Salute America’s Heroes Project.

However you wish to express your thanks, whether a donation, a care package, or a simple hug or thank you on the street, make sure you show your gratitude to our bravest of patriots this September 11th.