I really don’t know what to say about the various remembrances scheduled today.
To each of us the experience was different.
The commemoration of a loss is somehow strange, and for all the promises to remember 9/11/2001 forever, we know that won’t happen. I was in seventh grade when President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. For a decade or so there were commemorations, but those gradually faded becoming fewer and less obvious as time passed. This coming November 22 you may still find a mention in the newspaper but it will probably be relatively subdued.
December 7, 1941 was called “a day that will live in infamy,” by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, yet the attack on Pearl Harbor is not remembered any more vividly than the fall of the Alamo or the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine. Even July 20, 1969 is a faded memory; in case you’ve forgotten, that was the day man first stepped on the moon. History, no matter how significant is still in the past. We cannot take the event forward into the future. We can, however, take what we’ve learned and hopefully build on it.
By the time you read this there may be another attack. There have been warnings about a possible car bomb in either Washington DC or New York. Since our intelligence services have been the ones telling of the potential attacks, there’s a good chance that the perpetrators either will be caught or abandon or at least change their plans.
The key is that other people want what America has. It’s not just the material advantages, but the fact that we are a people who are bound not by birth but by an ideal. We have something to believe in that is both precious and powerful. When people see themselves as part of something important that links others together, they have a power that others can only imagine. If you haven’t lately, read the US Constitution – or at least the Bill of Rights. It’s no wonder others want what we take for granted.
When Americans cried, “Remember the Alamo!” or “Remember the Maine!” they were not advising us to study history. They used those incidents as a rallying cry to pull Americans together. For us to put our own wants and desires behind the good of our nation. For us to take on the responsibilities that go hand in hand with the rights we enjoy.
America is not perfect; anything that relies on human beings cannot be. However, with all its warts and imperfections, it is better than any other human effort I’ve ever seen, heard or read about. Each time we’ve been sucker punched we picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off and taken on the challenge that faced us. As we look back on 9/11/2001 that is the lesson that we have learned; now we need to carry it forward with renewed commitment.