We Need To Remember Sept. 11
Wednesday - September 10, 2008
I was going to write about politics - until I looked at the calendar and realized we were coming up on an anniversary that should give us reason to pause, take a deep breath and reflect. Sept. 11 should be on our minds this week. We need to remember.
We need to remember clearly, even though it hurts, the act of profound evil that broke our hearts and altered our reality of the world.
We need to remember how lost and small and afraid we were as we saw the planes hit the gleaming twin towers, symbols of our wealth, and the Pentagon, seat of our military might, and how we gazed in disbelief as flames and smoke enveloped them.
We need to remember the immensity of our horror when we realized that the objects dropping like bullets from above were people - real people who had a terrible choice of how they wanted to die: Burn in the fire or jump.
And we will always remember that almost 3,000 men, women and children perished. They kissed their loved ones goodbye, walked out of their homes on a clear September morning and never came back.
Whether you were there in New York choking on ash or running through the streets as the World Trade Center crumbled, or here in Hawaii watching in helpless horror as the nightmare unfolded thousands of miles away, you were thinking the same thing: Nothing will ever be the same again.
To call what happened on Sept. 11 a heinous and scurrilous crime against humanity is accurate. But words are inadequate. Words fail because it was so much more than that.
It was a wake-up call to a complacent and naive nation.
It was an assault on decency and democracy.
It was hell.
But 9-11 was not the instrument of our defeat.
For a time after the terrorist attack we came together as never before. We were not Democrats or Republicans, black, yellow or white. We were Americans.
We wore flag pins, not as a phony test of our patriotism, but as a simple, powerful statement: We are Americans. And you have not beaten us.
The world, even our critics, rallied behind us in sympathy and support. The worst day in our history brought out the very best in people everywhere.
Over the years that resolve has slipped away. Hateful, divisive politics have left too many of us embittered, cynical and alienated. Instead of gazing toward the future with confidence, we seem to spend a lot of time looking over our shoulders in fear. Our global goodwill has been squandered, our civil liberties at risk, our economy is dragging us down. And worst of all, 9-11 has been used as a bludgeon and a wedge to manipulate a frightened citizenry.
Yes, we need to remember everything that happened on Sept. 11, 2001, including all the fear, the anguish and even the anger that propelled us into Afghanistan and then, misguidedly, into Iraq. But just remembering isn’t enough. We must use those memories to stoke a renewed resolve for unity. We can get back that powerful kinship we felt with every other American regardless of political affiliation, race, class or gender. We can channel the emotions - burn them as fuel for optimism and for real change.
We must remember 9-11 not to make us bitter or afraid, but to make us stronger. We’re Americans, after all. It’s what we do.
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