COLUMN: Building walls internally is no way to move forward

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Memphis’ Overton High School/Memphis, Tenn.
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Realan Lewis

Realan Lewis

COLUMBIA — I was 5 years old when terrorists struck our country on Sept. 11, 2001. All I remember from that day was my school being locked down while my first-grade class watched planes crash

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into a pair of unfamiliar buildings.

I didn’t understand what was happening and went on with my day. When I returned home that afternoon, I expected my family to show concern about the day’s events, but they said nothing. My sixth birthday was the next day, and the excitement soon erased from my mind the

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chaos of the previous day. My parents never brought it up.

Over the next 10 years, the impact of the tragedy became more obvious to me. The worst of the lingering effects, I think, is how 9/11 hardened our hearts and caused us to distrust the diversity in our country.

I have attended some of the most diverse schools in my community, but for some reason still felt left out.

Many parents — who count many different cultures as a part of their heritage — have instilled in their children a reliance on stereotypes and fear of change. For safety’s sake, we’ve been taught to stick closely to people like us. Even when welcomed by others, we remain secluded.

The attacks affected my parents more directly than they affected me, and I understand their desire to keep me safe in the world. But we can’t be so wary of others that we keep good people at arm’s length.

I attended a Bridge Builders diversity camp in Memphis, Tenn., earlier this summer. We learned about people of all different cultures and how stereotypes can limit our perspectives.

If we truly wish to move past 9/11 and heal the wounds it

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left, we need to teach our children to embrace a more diverse world, speak their thoughts openly and listen to the truths of others.

That’s another lesson my parents taught: The only way to resolve a problem is to bring it to the table and discuss it.