forward progress

I was obviously not around for Pearl Harbor, or JFK, or any of the other landmark tragedies in the history of this country. If it weren’t for my father’s videotaped recording of the original airstrikes on Baghdad in 1991, I wouldn’t remember any of the first Gulf War. But I remember that morning.

Like most of us, I was doing something mundane when I found out about the attack: I was working, at the security desk at my college, on a Tuesday morning. I went into crisis mode and called in more guards, and took a call from the Dean to lower the flag to half-staff. It was 3 hours before I saw any video or photos. My coach was pissed off and wanted to kick some ass. Several friends either joined the military or were called to duty. One of my classmates from high school never came home.

The weeks that followed were full of solidarity and unity like I’d never seen. We took care of each other. People made sure we were all okay. I had friends on the east coast who knew people who’d lost somebody, and that brought it closer to home. I was really proud of my country. We’d expressed something we hadn’t seen since Pearl Harbor: we’d moved past our differences and became a united nation.

The tone changed too quickly. People were too quick to make it political, and we all bought in. Our national news media splintered and partisan networks rose to prominence. We listened to anybody with a TV show who said what they believed loudly enough. My optimism waned. I began to believe that it was all going to be political now.

I don’t watch much news anymore, aside from the local news and NBC’s Nightly News. I’ve become disappointed in the way our leaders talk and in the way we talk about them, merely because we don’t believe the same things all the time. We, and they, fail to realize that September 11, 2001 wasn’t a political event. It was an international tragedy, committed by people who hated us for reasons we never took the time to learn. We took up arms against Islamic extremists, and it became a war against an ideology.

This cannot be the legacy of the 3,222 people who died in the attacks (who weren’t hijackers).  As I write this, Ground Zero (which I choose to not call it anymore) is becoming World Trade Center again. The memorial opens tomorrow, and One World Trade Center‘s steel is at the 80th floor. As these buildings continue to rise, so must we. We must stand together and remember that these people died just for being Americans, or trying to save Americans, or in some cases, just for being in America. 9/11/01 was a day that changed this country forever, just like December 7th, 1941 and November 22nd, 1963. We moved forward after those events.

Let’s move forward again.

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

-Abraham Lincoln

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