When terrorists attacked America on 9/11, everything changed. We’d turn the page to a new chapter in our country’s story which caused a ripple effect felt across the world.
My memories of the day are so clear. I walked into my journalism class two decades ago as a 16-year-old girl still trying to figure out who she was. The television was already on and showing smoke and fire from the first plane hitting one of the Twin Towers. A few minutes later I watched the second one crash into the second tower. My brain couldn’t comprehend it all but I knew enough to know nothing was ever going to be the same.
And it hasn’t been. We quickly entered into the longest war in our history with almost 3 million service members deploying to the Middle East to combat terrorism. The number of lives lost on and off the battlefield or forever changed back home are staggering.
The words President Bush spoke after the ash settled all those years ago remain vital today. “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”
Resolve or firm determination couldn’t be a more appropriate way to describe our still young country. We’ve made countless mistakes and had to repair wrongdoings. But this is where growth comes in. How can we be better without acknowledging it? Since America’s founding, we’ve battled our way through hardship and challenges using sheer grit and ingenuity to survive when much of the world didn’t think we could.
9/11 reminded us, but all these years later, it feels like we’ve forgotten.
Hearing veterans I know and love questioning their sacrifices or service after witnessing the fall of Afghanistan has brought me to my knees over the last few weeks.
The debt the world owes to our veterans and those who made the ultimate sacrifice can never be repaid. But it can be honored.
It’s because of them we haven’t had another 9/11, a point that one prominent veteran shared with me. We’ll never know the number of terrorist attacks stopped or evil eliminated because of their resolve. Those on soap boxes would do well to remember it.
The patriotism and love for our country seems to have whittled away throughout the years, bringing us to a quickly sinking space of deep and hurtful division. Everything comes down to differing views on politics, issues and the steadfast us-versus-them mentality. We’ve lost grace, kindness, and the ability to see how much stronger we are together. Though battered, we aren’t irreparable.
This isn’t the first time we’ve been faced with hard choices or tragedy to crawl through. When I think about this somber anniversary and how the next two decades could go, my hopes are simple.
Reinvigorate empathy and a shared passion for creating the world most of our young children already believe exists.
Honor those serving and sacrificing for the greater good of our country.
And finally, bring back the one thing I know still exists in the hearts of all Americans despite all our diverse differences.