Remembering September 11, 2001
It was 16 years ago today when things changed. The events of Sept. 11, 2001, are seared into the memory of many but now studied in U.S. history classes in high school and college.
In the days leading up, Missouri, centrally located in the United States, a world superpower, seemed like the most secure place on Earth.
Itís part of the reasons why the shock waves of that day hit so hard and still reverberate today. It was the day the mainland, bordered by ocean and allies, came under attack since soon after the nation was formed. And it came while not at war but on a typical weekday morning, catching us all off guard. We painfully learned terrorism is designed that way.
It was a physical assault on the U.S., targeting New York City and Washington, D.C., meant also to inflict psychological damage. Unfortunately, the attempt was successful, with a loss of 2,996 lives as the passenger-carrying planes ultimately brought down the World Trade Center towers and damaged the Pentagon. It was a day no one felt safe anywhere. Skies were eerily quiet in the days that followed as public air traffic was halted, ballgames and events canceled amid mourning and uncertainty. We were wounded as a country, alternately questioning why such harm would be inflicted on innocent people and who would be so cold-hearted and hateful to inflict it. In the coming days, we heard and learned names and stories of people we previously were not familiar, both of valiant Americans who lost their lives and the deplorable people who willingly created such carnage.
We also learned something about ourselves. While the attack was meant to harm and scare, which it did, it also straightened the backbone of the country, ultimately uniting its citizens against outside forces in a way not seen since World War II. In a society obsessed with differences in politics, race, gender and class, it was a wake-up call to patriotism and resolve. We were united in being Americans, recognizing our freedom and lifestyle were under attack by those who disagreed. We fought back in the days, months and years to follow in what we all have realized is a changed world. Thousands of brave men and women in our military have given their lives since that day in what seems to be a fight with no end.
Terrorists have been diligent in their disdain for Western culture and disregard for human rights, testing the resolve of the free world with attacks on other major cities such as Boston, London and Paris. The free countries of the world have been largely united, sharing intelligence and resources whenever and wherever possible to squash threats.
And we as Americans must stand united. We have a bad habit of getting sidetracked by our differences, and there are many with a population exceeding 300 million.
Sept. 11, 2001, was a dark day, and we should take time to remember those lost. But we should also embrace its valuable reminders: We are all Americans, and freedom isnít free. It should also be a day where we reflect as citizens on what we have in common, what we stand for and what contributions we can make.
Itís a mindset we had 16 years ago.