Thoughts at the beginning of a somber weekend as America pauses to remember the terrorist attacks 20 years ago….
On September 10, 2001 – 20 years ago today – Americans were going about their business as usual, Republicans and Democrats were bickering as usual over this and that, and President George W. Bush had been in office for eight months.
The next day the world dramatically changed for us all as terrorists flew hijacked commercial airliners into New York City’s twin towers, the United States Pentagon, and crashed into a Shanksville, Pennsylvania, field on its way to D.C.
We all remember where we were  when it happened.
The startled disbelief to those events on a clear September day with deep blue skies riveted Americans who searched for loved ones and then stayed glued to news coverage, fearful of further hijacked planes, snipers, bombings on the ground, or other means of terrorism.
This week I watched Memory Box: Echoes of 9/11, a documentary that featured survivors of 9/11, and those who had lost loved ones on that fateful day. They shared their experiences in the days immediately after the terrorist attacks in 2001, and then a few years later, and now in 2021.
It brought back all the feelings, and the remembrances of the confusion and fear and heartbreak of those days when we were uncertain what the future held.
But out of all that terror and death and destruction, something wonderful emerged.
America was probably as unified as it had ever been. We were all one. We were in it together, and it brought out a fierce protectiveness toward our fellow Americans.
U.S. flags sold out in stores around the nation as Americans flew them outside their homes and businesses, and mounted them on vehicles.
I saw something I had never seen before. There were no Democrats or Republicans in the aftermath of 9/11 … we were one as a country … we all reached out to help others … and I wondered if this was what my parents had meant when they talked about a unified country during World War II.
Members of Congress lined the steps outside the U.S. Capitol on September 11 for a news conference and spontaneously broke out in “God Bless America .” Watching the video still sends chills down my spine. That was unity.
America had been attacked and we circled the wagons to protect all of us. It was the best of each of us. And in 20 years we have not had a repeat of a foreign terrorist attack, thanks to our military and leadership in this country. Land of the free because of the brave.
I think that’s one reason the violence of the January 6, 2021, insurrection on the U.S. Capitol by Americans – Republican Trump supporters – breaks my heart as much as it does. And sickens me, something Fox News anchor Chris Wallace said Wednesday in The Hill . Sending mobs to violently attack the seat of democracy was like a punch in the gut.
In 20 years we went from unified on those Capitol steps – an America that was bonded together by grief and patriotism – to Republicans rushing those same steps with poles and bear spray and mace and other weapons, battling Capitol and Metropolitan police officers in hand-to-hand combat, and then breaking windows and doors to enter, loot, and trash the inside of that historic building. Our Capitol. The People’s House. The seat of democracy.
America had been violated. Raped. Not by outsiders, but by her own.
From foreign terrorism 20 years ago … to domestic terrorism now. I weep thinking about it.
In his address to the nation  the night of 9/11, President George W. Bush noted, “America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining.”
Are we still living up to that?
There was such hope after 9/11 that America was going to be better.
We have always been optimistic. So how did we become so divided?
As I read about another January 6-type incident planned for next weekend – September 18 – at the Capitol and possibly around the nation, I wonder what will happen and if this one will also involve death, and what damage will be done to the building(s) and to our nation as a whole. Will next Friday be the day before yet another destructive event in the history of modern-day America?
September 11 changed all of us. So did a global pandemic. And the January 6 insurrection.
It remains to be seen what will happen to us … and if America can bring back the optimism we saw in 2001.
Never forget 9/11.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” -John 13:34-35
Be safe, and be well….