What about you? Do you, too, find visceral emotions still stirring within you whenever this date, 9/11, rolls around again?
For a generation that came of age well after the towers came down, it’s just a date to remember, like knowing the Magna Carta was signed in 1215.
Indeed, one current member of Congress, Rep. Ilhan Omar, 37, a Somalia native who became a U.S. citizen the day before those attacks, airily recalled “some people did something.”
They certainly did.
They ended the lives of 2,977 random victims, including 343 firefighters, 37 Port Authority cops and 23 New York City cops, leaving nearly 10,000 others to be diagnosed with cancer after inhaling clouds of toxic ash.
Even now, those memories are painful to contemplate.
And yet, as in all disasters, there’s comfort to be found in the inherent goodness of strangers. Around here, for instance, the Blizzard of ’78 left an enduring legacy of strangers helping strangers, which is happening right now in the Bahamas.
Just a mention of “9/11” brings those warm thoughts to mind.
But they’re also bothersome thoughts because they leave you wistfully wondering why it can’t always be that way?
There’s a general meanness in the air, and you can feel it, can’t you?
A lot of that is due to the rancidness of present-day politics. You’ll see it again tomorrow night in yet another presidential debate that’ll be more akin to civic mud wrestling, replete with rudeness and rampant disrespect.
Please. We’re better than that, aren’t we?
Why must it seem we’re at our best only when things are at their worst?
That’s exactly what we saw on 9/11, didn’t we?
A longtime friend, still in this business, surprised himself that day.
He insisted on calling himself “an ordinary soldier,” though manning a machine gun near the Cambodian border and running convoys up the Dong Nai River seemed quite extraordinary here.
“Let’s understand something, OK?” he said one day. “I have a Commendation Medal for being a good soldier, that’s all. No bronze star. No Purple Heart. Not a scar.”
But as he watched the riveting TV coverage of 9/11 he was blindsided emotionally.
“I’m not given to tears,” he said. “Yet I found myself welling up, seeing displays of patriotism, seeing people crying during the National Anthem, displaying flags, and what it says to me is that, while we may have different perceptions about our country, what we have in common is that we are all Americans.”
There was a parade coming up, so he made a decision, digging out a uniform last worn 33 years and 45 pounds earlier.
“I surprised myself,” he said. “This is not me. But I’m going to march this year because it’s no longer jingoistic to be proud to be an American.”
That’s a 9/11 memory treasured here.
But must it take a 9/11 to experience it again?
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