The bumper stickers are faded and crackled, and the T-shirts have long since found their homes in the rag bag. In a few years, it’s likely only C-SPAN will carry the live coverage of the memorial ceremonies from New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.
What we vowed to never forget, by and large, seems to have been forgotten by so many of us on a daily basis.
Well, maybe “forgotten” is the wrong word choice. Maybe it’s more that we, as a nation, let the wound scab and scar over and we’ve found a way to move on.
Move on, but not forward.
You see, the horrors of Sept. 11, 2001 gave way to a nation united in its massive grief on Sept. 12. Do you remember those first days after the attacks? Young, old, black, white, rich, poor—none of it mattered.
You saw a stranger on the street and you looked in each other’s eyes and without a word you shared the heartache. People lined up for blocks to donate blood or to raise money for emergency responder equipment. Military recruitment offices and police academies were filled with volunteers. Ordinary citizens came from all 50 states to help those in three locations try to pick up the shattered pieces as best they could.
For those first months afterward, we weren’t divided by class, race or state boundaries.
We were American.
Look around us today, though. In 17 years we’ve let ourselves be lured from the path of unity into the brambles of division. And over what?
Would who we were on Sept. 12, 2001, recognize us today in 2018?
Consider the daily deluge of hate and hostility directed at someone because of their politics or sex. Good, loving and faithful people turned into judge, jury and executioner online because of a Facebook meme or a Tweet. The constant cycle of finger-pointing, blame-shifting and outright nasty behavior cloaked in “patriotism.”
Would the people who reached out to strangers in shared grief on Sept. 12, recognize the people we’ve become in the mirror today?
America is not now, nor has it ever been perfect. But there are a few times when we came awfully close to reaching the pinnacle of what the Founding Fathers envisioned for our nation at its birth. Sept. 12, 2001, was one of those.
We have it in us to remember Sept. 12 more than Sept. 11. To keep the lessons we learned then alive now in our hearts and our daily actions. To practice compassion, and stand fast and strong in the face of evil.
That, more than a bumper sticker or a T-shirt or even a flag lapel pin, is how we can truly “never forget” and honor the sacrifices of the victims from that awful day.
Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or email@example.com.