Editorial: On anniversary of 9/11, we must find strength to unite once again
It seemed hard to believe, that day, that it was happening.
It seemed hard to believe your eyes, even though you watched the planes hit, the towers fall, the Pentagon burn, the smoke roll off the Pennsylvania field. The nation stared, not the way you might be unable to look away from a car crash. It was not morbid curiosity that drew our attention. It was disbelief. It was the way you stare at an optical illusion as your brain tries to make sense of something that defies logic.
Nothing on Sept. 11, 2001, made sense. The World Trade Center could not disappear in smoke and rubble. The Pentagon could not be attacked. Airliners could not be weaponized. No, keep watching and it will change. It will make sense again.
Except that it didn’t. And in some ways, the world hasn’t made sense since. It seems everything that has happened between then and now has had roots not only in the attacks and the tremendous losses of that day but in how we have viewed the world after that seismic crack that separated before and after.
For 60 years, America had been a nation that was too big to assault. It was the suit of armor that stood between its allies and their aggressors. Despite politics and disagreement, parties and politicians took that role as leader of the free world seriously. Americans believed it without question. It was our sacred duty, not only a divine right but an awesome responsibility.
“This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time,” President George W. Bush said in his first address afterward.
And we have. But one look at the television or social media or the people who lead us shows that the United States is no longer united. We seem to have divided ourselves not only from the rest of the world but from each other, and we have to find a way to stitch our broken bonds back together.
“None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world,” Bush said.
That divine responsibility of leadership is not only still at hand, but the lives lost on Sept. 11 — and the lives of the first responders and other workers who have died since due to their service — demand that we uphold that burden.
It is hard to believe, 18 years later, that so much has changed. It is hard to believe we can get it back.
But in the days after our deepest pain, we found strength in each other. We can do it again.