Where were you 20 years ago? It’s a question many of us will ask ourselves this week as we prepare to commemorate the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and other locations in America that came to be two decades ago Saturday.
Where were we? What were we doing? I was a freshman in college at the University of Missouri. I was teenager during the prosperous and, mostly peaceful, 90s and nothing truly terrible had ever touched me. And then.....
It may be hard for many of us to believe there are folks walking around today, full-grown adults, who weren’t even born when those planes crashed into the towers and forever changed the way we see the world.
Since then, we’ve seen a decades-long war, learned the attacks weren’t spontaneous, but rather planned out over MANY years and during the terms of a number of U.S. presidents.
We’ve sat by for two decades and, year after year, watched our TVs as the faces of the thousands lost that day drift across our screens.
Even since the flames were doused, the smoke literally cleared and we began to try and rebuild as best we could, we’ve seen the horrendous fallout from that day. First responders who risked their lives to save strangers and managed to survive have grown sick from breathing the toxic fumes released by the carnage that day. It’s enough to make almost anyone lose hope; doubt God.
But! If we really think back. If we really remember. As terrible as that day was, something truly remarkable happened in the days that followed. The terrorists wanted to tear us apart. They wanted to make us fear and hate as they do. But, that wasn’t our natural reaction. Instead, Americans banded together in our grief and we united in a way most of us had never witnessed.
In the days following September 11, 2001, we were kind to one another. It didn’t matter what our skin color was. It didn’t matter our politics. It only mattered that we were American and we were suffering together. And, together, we would persevere. And we did.
And so, maybe on Saturday we shouldn’t be asking ourselves where we were in September of 2001 as much as who we were - or, at least, who we became. Because, if there has ever been a time since that day 20 years ago when this country needs us to put our differences aside and unite under a common purpose, it’s now.
Maybe we should try on this solemn anniversary to swallow our grief - mourn our losses, sure, but remember the lessons we learned from 9/11.
Let’s remember. Let’s not forget. Let’s learn from the past, so history doesn’t repeat itself.
God bless America.
Blake Bell is the editor and the publisher of the Madison Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org