Lessons of 9/11

If you were like me and millions of other Americans, you spent yesterday, the tenth anniversary of the terror attacks on the U.S., remembering the innocents who lost their lives to an evil that was, before that day, unimaginable to most of us. If you were like me, you stopped to remember the brave police, firefighters and “everyday” Americans who gave their lives to save others. If you were like me, you stopped to remember that the worst of humanity was ultimately vanquished by the selfless heroism of the best of humanity.

The stories of those heroes were retold throughout the day on television, on radio and in print. They are stories that have become engrained in our national psyche over these ten years, yet stories that we never tire of hearing. As I watched, shedding more than a few tears throughout the day, one theme seemed to recur over and over: We, as individuals, as a country, will never forget.

Some say that thinking is wrong, that it’s time to move past 9/11. I disagree. I think remembering that day is a good thing. I think we should always remember that the freedoms and views of tolerance we cherish are ironically what made us vulnerable to attack by those who think differently. But more importantly, we should always hold tight to that feeling of unity that engulfed the country in those hours, or minutes, following the attacks. We should always remember that it was only by working together—whether it was the valiant men and women on Flight 93 who averted a greater tragedy, or the selfless first responders, some of whom lost their lives saving others, or the millions of people who gave blood or money to help the victims and their families—that we accomplished the greatest things.

The thought cemented in my mind late in the afternoon. I guess it took that long for me to get past the grief, to the point where I could think about the past ten years. My husband had turned from news coverage of 9/11 to watch the Redskins/Giants football game, and I wondered if it was by coincidence or plan that the two cities that suffered the most on 9/11 would meet on its 10th anniversary. Either way, I thought it was a good thing as I watched the pregame tribute to the victims and heroes of the day. Family members of those who’d perished stretched the American flag across the field, drawing together the two opposing teams; the crowds, wearing the colors of both, chanted U-S-A, U-S-A; and big men wearing tight jerseys wiped a few tears away at a rapper’s reverent rendition of our national anthem.

This is America, I thought, often a country of opposites yet still the world’s melting pot.  Sappy? Sure. But I can’t help but believe that it takes a melting pot to accomplish the impossible. And today, ten years and one day after the day that changed our world, the lesson to me is that together we’re better than apart. So maybe it’s not time to move past 9/11, but it is time to acknowledge that 9/12 needs heroes too.

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