Today a poignant reminder
Very few students graduating from high school this year were alive when nearly 3,000 people were killed during terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. Even many college graduates have few, if any, memories of the day.
Many of those who will vote next year do not recall the few years afterward during which Americans stood united, flags flew, young people answered their country’s call to serve and a two-fold purpose emerged: stand in the face of tyrants who would divide and destroy us; and make absolutely certain we did not compromise our values in the process.
It has not always gone smoothly. Much of the sentiment that was revived during those years has been twisted and exploited by political candidates on both sides of the aisle. The wars in Afghanistan – Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel – continue. They represent the longest U.S. combat force participation in our nation’s history. Nearly 20,000 members of U.S. forces have been wounded in the endeavor, and 2,419 have been killed. The death toll continues to rise.
Efforts to increase our security have raised questions about our freedoms – and the rights of all people. It has been a tricky line to walk.
Back in 2008, then-President George W. Bush spoke at the Pentagon, reminding us, “One of the worst days in America’s history saw some of the bravest acts in Americans’ history. We’ll always honor the heroes of 9/11. And here at this hallowed place, we pledge that we will never forget their sacrifice.”
Before that, the wife of one of the pilots of Flight 93, which went down in Shanksville, Pa., that day, urged, “If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate.”
There is no time for hate. Americans know how to unite – we demonstrated it 18 years ago. We know what this country stands for, and that we must never prove right those who are bent on destroying us.
We dishonor the memory of bravery and sacrifice on Sept. 11, 2001, if we do anything but use today as a reminder of who we are and what we – truly – stand for.