Applying The Lessons Of 9/11
Wednesday - September 13, 2006
We vowed never to forget. That’s what we swore on the day the planes leveled the Twin Towers and smashed a gaping hole in the Pentagon. And yet, even an event as horrific as the Sept. 11 attack can fade in the minds of the world. It is not forgotten. Just diminished, I haven’t written about that day of horror in a long time, but like most Americans I think about it all the time. Not deeply or reflectively, perhaps, but constantly. One cannot escape references to 9/11. They are in the daily papers, in the TV news, in the books and magazines we buy. More and more, 9/11 has become embedded in our popular culture - in movies and on television, where you hear it in a line tossed off in Law and Order, or in a quick comment in CSI.
It isn’t just that we hear about it every day. The tragedy of Sept. 11 is a part of us. We live with the specter of disaster every time we make plans to board a plane. The security of our nation and our state revolves around a post 9/11 expectation of terrorism.
Now the anniversary is here. It’s been five years. Time enough, I think, for us to accept certain things about our world and move on by asking some critical questions.
One, the world and our own country are not and probably never will be safe - the kind of safe we as Americans took for granted in the innocent days of our pre 9/11 youth. What are we willing to put up with in the name of safety? How can we, ordinary citizens, become more proactive in attaining our security?
Second, we need to buckle down and decide if we are willing to give up or compromise our civil liberties in pursuit of that quest for safety. If we are not willing to do either, what, then, do we do? What action do we take? The important thing is to decide where we as a country stand on matters that affect our constitutionally protected rights and freedoms. The most unacceptable position is to have none at all.
Third, we need to remember how we held close to our families and friends in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11. Remember how precious every single one of our relationships was to us when we saw how vulnerable we all were? We pulled together as families, as neighbors, and as a nation. Losing a chunk of our national soul suddenly put everything into perspective. Our most important possessions turned out not to be possessions at all. They are people.
So on the fifth anniversary of our national trauma, let us remember it all - the fear, the horror and the shattering of innocence. But let us also remember the heroism and the courage displayed by individuals, and by a stunned nation under siege. Our values survived. Our democracy survived. We survived.
But we’re still working on applying the lessons of Sept. 11 to our everyday lives. We will be asking questions and seeking solutions for a very long time. And that’s OK. Looking for the answers keeps the discussion going and ensures that we never, ever forget.
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