September 11, 2001 plus 18 years brings us to today. At times it seems as though a thousand years have passed, at other times it seems like yesterday. To help put today’s remembrance into perspective you should know those who were born in 2001are now eligible to join the armed forces and fight in the war which has waged non-stop all of their lives.
High school students beginning their senior year weren’t yet born the day terrorists attacked the United States on our soil. An attack which brought down the World Trade Center, also destroyed a section of the Pentagon and a day which witnessed the courage of a few brave passengers on an airliner who corkscrewed a jet into the Pennsylvania landscape by their own hands.
When the attack was complete, 3000 people were killed within a couple of hours. Most of the people killed that day died in New York City while we watched it happen on our televisions. Two of them killed once called Norwich home; Rob Peraza and Michele Reed. Some of those who survived that day in New York City are still dying today as a direct result of the evil which was wrought on that warm, cloudless, picture-perfect Tuesday morning.
Approximately 25% of the current US population was born after September 2001. They are the newest generation who have always taken their shoes off at an airport and only know of law enforcement carrying automatic long as a normal course of business. Young people of today casually walk around vehicle resistant, solid concrete and steel barriers at public buildings without realizing their actual purpose.
As each year passes, the wicked events of 9/11/2001 become more and more of a history lesson or a footnote in a textbook. This can be compared to how the people of my generation learned of the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941. That attack brought America into a World War for five years. Amazingly, the Global War on Terror has been fought continuously for 18 years and still has no end in sight.
Our newest generation has no memory of 9/11 or the roar of supersonic, combat loaded fighter jets flying over Chenango County from Syracuse’s Hancock Field toward New York City. These jets were flying so fast that few caught a glimpse of them, but we all heard them. Today’s young adults don’t respond with mental anguish from hearing the high pitch chirping sound from the alarm of a New York City firefighter's breathing gear which haunts the rest of us.
Here’s something else of which our newest generation has no recollection; our country’s people united in purpose, kindness, and charity. It has been a long time since we’ve all gotten along, proudly flying our flags in unison. The USA is the most culturally diverse country on Earth, and for a few years following September 2001, we were one.
We supported each other, made gift boxes for servicemen overseas, organized prayer vigils and sang God Bless America at every sporting event in one loud voice. It is common that shared adversity creates a bond among people, but, my goodness, how soon we forgot.
Sadly, our new normal has devolved into the loathing and abhorrence for one another just because of different views on governance. I can almost pinpoint the moment the division began; May 1, 2003 when President G.W. Bush landed on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln displaying the premature banner “Mission Accomplished.”
What followed was sharp, insulting commentary, slandering our President. It was especially hurtful because the statements were made by fellow Americans about the Commander in Chief while we were still actively fighting in Iraq. Vitriolic language when speaking about a political opponent is no longer rude, it is socially expected.
We’ve gone beyond disliking political party’s platforms, well past rivalry to the point of adversaries. I fear the next step is considering people with opposing views as enemies. By that point, our democracy will be in jeopardy. It is time to find internal common ground that isn’t caused by an external terrorist attack.
Our younger generations should experience the togetherness of which our nation is capable. This is going to take a great deal of open-minded effort on everyone’s part, especially the adults. The tribalism currently being practiced is going to lead us into a death spiral guaranteed to weaken our nation.
Whether your social group leans you to the left or the right, there is a third group of violent people in this world who wants to do you harm regardless. Achieving unity through another terrorist attack is not the way we should gain solidarity. What we need to do is what our coins and currency have been telling us for years; E Pluribus Unum – from many, one.