09/11/2012 12:18 pm ET Updated Nov 11, 2012

Transform the Legacy of Sept. 11

I am haunted by the still-vivid memory of picking up the phone on 9/11. A dear friend in Washington, D.C. sobbed, "Turn on your television, they've flown a plane into the World Trade Center." Then I watched the second plane fly into the second tower. And then the towers collapsed.

Eleven years later, I'm still haunted by the life lost on and because of that day. Haunted by at all those who mourn lost loved ones, lost innocence and a lost sense of security. Haunted that our world, instead of growing more peaceful and united, has grown more violent and divided.

Haunted that 11 years later good Americans who happen to be Muslim or are mistakenly identified as Muslim are forced to live in fear.

A few weeks ago, I was a guest at an end-of-Ramadan celebration hosted by a Pakistani Muslim couple I am humbled to call my friends. They are generous, big-hearted people. Their lives enrich America and our world.

In his greeting, the host said that only two things were required of me that evening: to have a good time and to make a new friend. Even though I was one of the few Christians at this Muslim celebration, it was easy to do both.

As we commemorate the tragedy of 9/11 it is right to mourn all that was lost on that day and since. But can we also shine the light of hope through that tragedy by making a new friend?

For the vast majority of Americans, that might mean reaching out to a neighbor or colleague who is Muslim or Sikh or Hindu, or calling a house of worship in your community. When someone answers the phone, let them know you're a neighbor and that you're glad they're here and that you'd like to get to know them better.

This is one small way to begin to transform the awful legacy of 9/11 -- its tragic loss of life and subsequent menace to loyal, peace-loving Americans who happen to be Muslim or are mis-identified as Muslim -- into the promise of a new future where we link arms as neighbors and rebuild a sense of American community where people welcome, respect and help each other.