Thursday, September 24, 2020 -
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9/11: What we remember, what we have forgotten

It should not take a national tragedy to evoke all that we are missing now — American patriotism and national unity

Think back to September 10, 2001.

On that day, there was no TSA. On that day, people who traveled by air simply walked through a metal detector before boarding their flights. On that day, people met their loved ones at the gate at the airport when they landed. On that day, who had ever heard of al-Qaida or knew much about Osama bin Laden? On that day, most Americans had respect for firefighters, paramedics and police officers, but they didn’t call them “first responders” or national heroes. On that day, Americans felt relatively safe and secure in their homeland.

Then there was the next day, September 11, 2001. The day everything changed.

Between 8:46 a.m. and 10:03 a.m., a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaida using commercial airliners full of people as the weapons struck the United States. 2,996 fatalities. More than 25,000 injuries. Long-term health consequences. $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage. Incalculable damage to national security and world order.

The infamous day became known simply as 9/11 probably because there was no adequate descriptor in the American lexicon to describe the historical significance of the day.

Yes, 9/11 shook America to its core, but if any positive development came out of it, it was our immediate response, which included increased expressions of patriotism, such as flying the flag, increased focus on time spent with family, increased church and synagogue attendance and a temporary abandonment of rancor between the political factions in this country. Americans realized that they had a common enemy who didn’t care whether we were Democrat or Republican, or liberal or conservative. The enemy just hated Americans.

Fast forward 19 years. That sense of American unity in the aftermath of 9/11 has disappeared — in fact, reversed. Here we are with an American public more divided than it has ever been since the Vietnam era or perhaps even the Civil War. America still has enemies in Islamic extremists, but right now our greatest enemies seem to be within: Americans who hate America or even each other.

Today, on the 19th anniversary of 9/11, we pause to remember all who were lost on that fateful day: the 2,606 people starting their work day in the Twin Towers at World Trade Center in New York City, the 125 civil servants at their desks in the Pentagon, the 265 souls onboard the four jetliners used as weapons, including the one that was intentionally crashed into a Pennsylvania field. We also reflect on our country’s success in fighting international terrorism, from the elimination of al-Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden and the significant diminishing of ISIS.

We must also hearken back to that sense of unity and patriotism that followed 9/11, and remember once again that America’s external enemies don’t care about the things that are tearing us apart, but they do take notice of an America that is united, strong and proud. It shouldn’t take a national tragedy like 9/11 to evoke American unity, strength and pride.

Copyright © 2020 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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