A Time For Unity
If you were alive on September 11, 2001, the images are etched forever in your mind: a plane flying into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City… followed by a plane flying into the South Tower. The crumbled walls of the Pentagon in Washington, DC, decimated by yet another plane crashed into it. A field of debris in a field in Pennsylvania, the remains of a jetliner smashed into the ground there.
You remember the billowing smoke, the cries, the chaotic exit from the lower part of Manhattan as the world there burned. You remember watching as television crews filmed the towers buckling, your own knees buckling.
You recall the courageous dash of firefighters into the still-toppling towers and the deaths that followed. You recall police and emergency workers rushing to the scene, unmindful of the danger unfolding above and all around them. You recall a flow of stunned survivors plunging northward, onto roads, of traffic at a standstill.
You remember that in those morning hours of a beautiful autumn day, death stalked and conquered nearly 3,000 lives.
It was a time of unity, when patriotism rose to new heights, and every American felt linked one to the other, if only for a time.
The loss of lives 19 years ago is felt more strongly this September as we reconcile ourselves to the horror of more than 190,000 lives lost to COVID-19 in the United States; and we long for the sense of unity that earlier disaster awoke in Americans — a sense that terrorists could infiltrate our defenses and inflict horror on us, but that we could stand up and prevent a tragedy of this proportion from recurring. We need that sense today, that by standing together our country can halt the onslaught of fear and death from this virus.
Those who are enduring this pandemic will remember the sounds of sirens in urban areas carrying virus victims to hospitals overwhelmed by patients. We will recall the cacophony of pots and pans ringing out from city balconies, and the sounds of music wafting through neighborhoods as we looked for ways to connect. We will recall emptied store shelves and generous donations to food pantries, masks and social distancing.
We will recall so many mixed messages that a unified fight against this virus seemed fragile.
But on September 11 of any year, we can pause to remember the moments that moved us from our blissfully ignorant bubbles into the reality of terror on our soil. The people who perished that day, the people who suffer from illnesses borne of that day, and those who have perished since will not, cannot, be forgotten.
We will set aside our current crisis for one day, making room in our hearts for the losses suffered on so many levels on September 11, 2001. We will make room for hope and remember that a unified nation is the strongest nation, and that we have proof that moving forward is not only a possibility, but a probability.