On Saturday, our nation will mark the 20th anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack ever on American soil.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, members of al Qaeda hijacked four airplanes and carried out suicide attacks against American targets. The hijackers flew two of the planes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a third plane hit the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C., and the fourth plane, almost certainly headed for the U.S. Capitol, crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, downed by courageous passengers.
Almost 3,000 people were killed. It was a tragedy on the scale of Pearl Harbor.
For many of us, we can recall with clarity where we were and what we were doing when we learned of the devastating attacks. The attacks left us gutted, ruptured our sense of safety and reshaped American history.
We watched in horror as the deadly events of that day unfolded live on television and in news reports for weeks after. The images of the smoldering ruins of the Twin Towers are etched in our memories forever. Twenty years later, the day known simply as 9/11 remains frozen in the minds of all who lived through it. And it must.
As our nation commemorates this solemn anniversary, we face different threats. We must not forget how this horrific event brought Americans together, despite our differences. We must realize that if we can stand stronger together in the face of that enormous tragedy, we can stand stronger together facing our many challenges today, and those to come.
In the days after the attacks, Americans rushed out to buy flags, and this nation was festooned with the red, white and blue from sea to shining sea. We reached out to friends and strangers alike in a desire for American unity.
In the years since 9/11, we have drifted apart as a country. Our political differences have driven a wedge into the heart of our country. In 2013, this newspaper warned that “when discussion of the issues devolves into personal attacks and demonizing the opposition, the democratic process fails.” Sadly, civility and debate have been replaced with dogmatic attacks. Governing has taken a backseat to scoring political points. We must understand that the true enemy of our American democratic experiment is not our fellow Americans. Our true enemies hate freedom and equality. They hate that we are still the land of opportunity, and that we are ruled, not by tyrants but by the consent to be governed.
We would do well to remember that feeling of national unity we all felt after being attacked on 9/11. We must set aside political differences as we once again seek comfort and strength as one nation under God, indivisible.