On September 11, 2001 many of us sat stunned, huddled by our radios or in front of television screens, listening to news of the unimaginable. The World Trade Center in New York City had been attacked! On that day—and the days that followed—we truly believed that nothing in our lifetimes would ever equal this disruption to our world…and we would never forget what happened on that day.
Now 19 years later, as we continue to absorb the shock of another unimaginable disaster, a Coronavirus pandemic, we look at 9/11 with distant eyes. We may now have a better understanding that national catastrophes become historical moments in time, each to be periodically replaced by new challenges that call upon and strain our reserves of national and personal strength.
While we struggle still to comprehend the impact of the Coronavirus on our lives in this moment, we should not lose sight of the collective shock, trauma and outrage we Americans felt on that infamous day in 2001. That was a day intended to shame our country and bring it to its knees. Instead, it has become a day to celebrate the indomitable American spirit, a day of heroism; of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. And as we learn to live with the virus, we must call on that indomitability once again.
As we recall 9/11 on September 11, 2020, let’s do so with a spirit that links the “then” with the “now.” To rise above this new challenge, we need the same personal and collective resources that we had to dig down deep to find in ourselves in 2001.
Rather than the divisive political discourse raging in our country, it is the courage, the grit, and the commitment of Americans all across our nation that was the real measure of America in the days that followed September 11, 2001. It is that same combination of courage, grit and commitment that is a real measure of America today. As we commemorate 9/11 nineteen years later, perhaps that is the one lesson we can continually draw from national tragedy – and – yesterday and today – it is the best reminder of who we really are as Americans.