It’s hard to unpack all the implications and emotions of the events of 9/11.
For me, personally, there are many elements that go into a moment of remembrance like today, the 10th anniversary of those attacks. There’s the stunning loss of life, both in its enormity, and in recognition of the individuals that perished (including a high school classmate of mine). There’s the sense of hurt of my hometown of New York City, from the altered skyline to the practical and psychological impacts on my friends and family who live there. There’s the emotions that all Americans felt that day and afterwards, from fear and the recognition of being under attack, to patriotism and a sense of community and common purpose.
But 9/11 also has broad social, political, economic, and historical consequences, from security procedures at airports to wars, civil liberties, anti-Muslim sentiment, and a broader change in our politics and political discourse.
Some ramifications are appropriate to note in a blog about health policy: an economic tailspin that contributed to the beginning of the state budget issues in California and elsewhere that have led to continued crises and cuts throughout the decade; and the federal government’s shift of resources to military and domestic security spending, along with additional tax cuts, that now sets the context for the current political push to make big cuts to health and other vital programs at the federal level.
On 9/11 and after, there was a lot of pride in first responders, police and firefighters and medical professionals. It’s a good time to remember the need to invest in and support both an emergency response system, and a health system, on which we all rely. There was also a missed opportunity to formalize the sense of community and common dignity and shared sacrifice, perhaps with a call for national service, perhaps with a push to ensure access to coverage and care for all Americans. It was noteworthy that it took until last year, 2010, for our policymakers to pass a health care measure for those first responders, much less the much broader effort to expand and reform health coverage.
There’s no way to resurrect those that lost their lives, or undo the past. But there’s always the opportunity moving forward to remember our national purpose and resolve to confront even the worst problems.