Today marks 17 years from the attack on the twin towers in New York. That’s almost a generation that has never known pre-9/11 life. So looking back on it from this vantage point in history, with the current administration in utter disarray, with the rate of technological change ever encroaching upon our privacy and lives.

I remember that day so clearly, as all of us do I assume who were cognizant of the events as they unfolded. My phone rang and it was Uncle Ron telling me to turn on the TV. I was in shock and could barely process what was happening. I watched as the towers fell. Being a continent away it seemed so remote, so foreign, and yet I had friends in Manhattan.

Running to my office where I had better internet service I watched all day as the horrors unfolded, waiting to find out what was next. It’s odd when you are a witness to history and know it, but have no part to play in it other than quiet observer. All day I hit refresh on the chat board for my alumni network. The emails poured in of loss and anxiety.

I was lucky in that I lost no one in that day of destruction, at least no one directly. We all lost on that day though. We lost our blissful ignorance of war, our happy go lucky innocence of life in America, where nothing touches us here, that life was shattered and like Humpty Dumpty will never be rebuilt exactly the same. In Japanese artistry there is a process called Kintsugi, it’s where broken pottery is repaired with gold filigree and the original product is thus enhanced.

That did not happen to us. We are not improved by the damage that was done. Oh, some technological advances have made their way into our lives, but I’m not sure they’re improvements on the quality of life. What I notice is the open hatred and fear that people are exhibiting. The lack of conviviality and cordiality amongst neighbors and fellow Americans.

I’ve traveled the world and I’m usually struck by how human it is to care for one another, to recognize that our common survival is based on a communal concern. I’ve seen it happen on buses and trains where strangers come to each other’s aid. I’ve noticed that basic human psychology is that we will repay favors and courtesies.

But that basic humanity took a painful hit 17 years ago. A hit that continues to resonate with many of our friends and fellow Americans. The level of cynicism and skepticism has increased. People of the Muslim faith are still under a heightened scrutiny, more so than the rest of us. It’s odd and understandable. The horrible people who killed so many on 9/11/01 were ostensibly Muslim. But they were also human. And I have to wonder what happened to them to pervert their basic humanity, what made them so hate-filled and hurting that they saw their behavior as serving a greater good.

I ask the same question of the Christian terrorist who takes a gun and commits a mass shooting, (which happens almost daily) in our country. What is your pain? Why could we not see it and find a salve for it?

It’s not easy to see the humanity in the killers. We don’t want to acknowledge that they resemble us in any way – but the truth is they do. We all have the potential to do horrible and tragic things. We all have thoughts of revenge and anger. Most of us moderate that in favor of the basic humanity. But some don’t. Some act in ways that are inconceivable to me

Since the bombings, we have become suspicious, scared, and more controlled by a government police state that is using the fear factor to take greater and greater steps into our lives. The easiest lie a politician ever tells is their ‘belief in God’ and the second easiest is ‘this is necessary for your safety.’ That what was used as the excuse for the Japanese internment camps, and the Jewish Ghettos in Germany.

The day the towers went down they took with them the twin pillars of our society, communal concern, and a limited government. We need to remember that the more control we give the government to “protect us” the less privacy and liberty we have.

As the generations continue, hopefully, they will read history, and remember there was a time, before.

David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at or 310/664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra

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