Five years ago our nation lost what little was left of its innocence. Wives lost husbands, husbands lost wives, parents lost children, children lost moms and dads and grandparents, aunts and uncles. The magnitude of the loss is great on so many levels. It is difficult to put into words, even for a writer used to writing about tough life stuff like death and trauma. We all lost something precious on that day.

As the twin towers crashed to the earth that terrible day in NYC, we watched history unfold in horror and disbelief. I remember thinking that up until that event my worst nightmare as a mother was wondering if someone would manage to get my son and his wheelchair out of the building to safety in the event of another tragic school shooting. That was, and still is today, a real concern today for many families, another unfathomable horror, one born on American shores.

But the increasingly thin line that now separates sane acts from the horrific crossed over to a whole new degree on 9/11. None of us will ever again be quite so lighthearted, so seemingly invincible, not even in our laziest moments of slumber. You don’t get over such senseless, hate-filled acts ever. Somehow we do adjust, rewiring our wounded psyches and hearts and egos enough to continue about our daily lives in the best way that we can, given the ever-present and often unseen enemy. At times, it feels like we are all actors in a dark play, trying to pretend that everything around us is normal, a world filled only with beauty and wonder and people chasing big American dreams. But the world is no longer that innocent, and neither are we. And we never again will be. When will we wake up to that reality?

Now more than ever, it is crucial that our acts of goodness, kindness, tolerace and acceptance of differences build up steam and momentum; we must not retreat from being humane, from fighting hatred and injustice. We need to challenge our young people to better understand the critical role they play in impacting the world in more positive ways, in building the nation’s future foundation, one that has nothing to do with fame and celebrity and materialism and self gratification, Nick and Jessica, or overpriced designer handbags.

We can start our work right now by being better models for our kids, fully present in their lives, teaching them the skills they need in order to make a difference in this crazy world, teaching them to give back to others and to model respect and tolerance for the value of the many world cultures that co exist with ours, including on our own shores. By helping empower our youth to understand that they CAN be part of the solution to such world madness, we offer the world, and ourselves, hope for a better future. We can’t put this world back on course for very long without them. It is their inheritance.

While the media clearly feeds our belief that the world is indeed a frightening place with danger lurking around every single corner, the reality is that there is much good in the world. We just don’t run tag lines across the bottom on CNN non stop for such acts. But there are people risking their lives every day for our freedom, neighbors watching out for neighbors, parents helping the most challenged children have better lives, adults becoming mentors. Trees still stand, flowers still bloom, cats still purr, children still laugh, the seasons still change, the surf still pounds the shoreline. We still go on, day by day. Wounded, limping at times, still holding our heads high, boldly, even menacing at times to others. We are a tough, kind hearted bunch.

Terrorists did not kill our spirit, our resolve, our fight, our heart, our democracy on September 11th, 2001. Did they make us take notice? Without a doubt. Did they take the wind out of our sails? Perhaps for a bit. But evil can never truly triumph over good. And the actions of a few cannot compete fully with the commitment of the masses to love, move forward and take care of one another. Hated is a powerful weapon. Love is more powerful.

As a nation we do need to awaken, to check our arrogance. We have a bad habit of forgetting the trials of the rest of the world as we enjoy the freedom and materialism our country affords. We behave as if we are superior to all others on planet earth. We’re not. We are all human, too, with human failings and free will, regardless of the constraints placed upon us. We have much work to do on our own shores to make the world a better place. Each one of us should take the time to do a gut check on ourselves- how are we spending our gifts, talents, resources? Do we take time to pay attention to what’s going on in the world- to help make a difference in our own hurting backyards? Are we rasing our children to be good citizens who give back?

September 11th reminded us that we are all human and we do depend upon one another to survive in some way. No one is immune to suffering, to loss, to trauma. The scale of this event makes it tougher to ignore those facts, as it should.

Today, a call has gone out for a moment of silence and reflection, a time to remember those whose lives were cut short in this unspeakable act of hatred and senseless violence. I believe we should take time for silence every single day to see where we are in our own lives and see where we are headed with our personal decisions and actions. We need to examine how we each own a part of the solution to peace and acceptance that this world so desperately needs. When will we finally figure out that the time for real action is now?

So while the strains of the National Anthem and God Bless America are repeated over and over today, I hope you take the time to really listen, to think about what this word and music really means and feel it, don’t just listen casually as you return emails, run the kids to soccer practice, cook dinner or feed the cat. September 11th really happened, and we cannot forget what that means to all of us or to our children’s futures.

One person can make a difference, for good or evil. I have seen it time and again. The only thing that stops real freedom and allows evil to triumph, even if only for a few seconds, is our inaction, our laziness, our self centeredness. We can andmust make better decisions. It’s time for us to make some tough personal choices that impact our nation and our world in more positive ways, for the sake of our children.

The world needs healing and we can choose to be part of the necessary healing. I hope that you choose well.

God bless America, and every single one of us, too.