We made it through the 10th anniversary commemorations. Memorials now exist at Ground Zero in
Manhattan, at the Pentagon in , and in that
field near Shanksville. The enemy who
planned and carried out the attacks, in the opinion of some experts, is on the
ropes, their founding leader dead, courtesy of the U.S. Navy SEALS. Other terror groups are discovering how hard
it is to hide from drones. Arlington
is a far different place than it was
on September 10, 2001. The changes, far
too many to enumerate here, have for the most part become second nature, part
of the background of our daily lives.
People are far more vigilant. In
fact, several terror attacks have been discovered before they were carried out
simply because someone somewhere saw something, and said something. Higher security measures are in place, but
like an old man with a limp, we’ve all learned to live with them. Instead of constantly looking over our
shoulders, we’re focused instead on the depth of our economic rut, and the
spinning wheels of the government bus that only makes the hole deeper. The election campaign has done more to
spotlight our divisions instead of our unity.
None of us know when we’ll get our national feet under us again. Some are quietly suggesting we may never come
back; that the chapter of world history entitled “ United
States ” is coming to a close. America
There hasn’t been a successful attack on our soil since 9/11. That success is attributable to the unceasing efforts of thousands of unsung heroes, ranging from soldiers humping through the mountains between
to the deskbound intelligence analysts relentlessly digging and sifting,
looking for that one nugget of data that could stop a potential attack in its
tracks. But make no mistake, an
important part of that success is due to the actions of ordinary citizens who
notice things that don’t look right, and report them. Afghanistan
But I think it important to pause and ask ourselves a very important question:
Where do we go from here?
As time passes, more space is put between the present and the past. Memories, once so sharp and clear, begin to acquire a softer focus, even a blur. Events that define generations and alter history fade into the background, becoming just another date and place in a history book. In a way, this is the natural course of events. December 7th, 1941 was a penultimate moment, changing the course of events and forcing the future events that followed. Yet, if you were to ask 100 people under the age of 25 what that date meant, you’d likely get a lot of blank stares. Yet when members of the aging Greatest Generation gather, there’s no question in their minds about the significance of Pearl Harbor Day, and the effect that had on their lives.
The two events are similar in that they were the only two times after 1812 when
was attacked on our own soil. They are
also alike in that both attacks came without warning and instantly transformed
a politically divided nation into one united behind a single grim purpose. And yet, as America Pearl Harbor
has faded from consciousness, so eventually will 9/11. Those who were alive on that day will
eventually pass from this earth, and the intense emotions generated by the
attacks will likely go with them.
For those of us in this day and time, it seems hard to imagine a country where the date of 9/11 has lost significance. But that same idea is carried by those from the World War II generation.
I’ve told the story numerous times of the sunset at
, when I heard
a young child ask, “What happened here?”
I can well imagine that perhaps a century from now, that same question
will be posed by visitors to the three memorials to 9/11. Gettysburg
If those memories are to be preserved, if the meaning of that day is to be saved, it is up to us. It is the task of every generation to take the meaningful events and pass them on to succeeding generations. It’s not enough to remember the date, or even the event. What must be passed on are the emotions we all felt that day; the shock, the horror and fear, and the sense of helplessness. But what must also be preserved is the strong sense of unity that swept
in the days following, if
for no other reason than to prove that we are not hopelessly divided by our
politics. That we can still be “indivisible.” America
Perhaps that’s the one small success we can all share.