For a very long time, and hopefully forever, on Sept. 11 Americans will hold the memory of tragedy and loss, of awakening to the global reach of terrorism, and of heroism.
This is fitting, but it is worth remembering Sept. 12, and Sept. 13 and Sept. 14, and the days and months and years that followed.
It was not simply the unselfish action and uncompromising duty of law enforcement and first responders running into the Manhattan Twin Towers everyone else ran out of.
It wasn’t only the courage of passengers overwhelming their ruthless captors in United Airlines Flight 93, saving unknown others who had been targeted while dooming themselves to die in a rural field.
It wasn’t just the military professionals and civilians keeping their cool as a jet crashed into the Pentagon.
The extraordinary acts of ordinary people that day have been documented and recounted many times in many ways, and rightly so.
But it’s also right to remember the actions, big and small, that followed. When tragedy strikes, the brave and selfless show up the days after as well as the day of.
They sorted through the rubble and grappled with the gruesome images. They rode by the busload to the scene to volunteer time and talent. They opened doors for the displaced. They triaged and treated the injured. They supplied food for the suddenly homeless. They donated truckloads of emergency supplies. They wrote checks.
They worried that loved ones had not become victims at a time when communication with those near the attack areas was difficult or impossible. They comforted those who had lost someone, waited with those who didn’t know yet, and reassured those who feared more violence could still rain from the sky.
Surely there were those who had never volunteered for anything eagerly joining the Red Cross and similar organizations, ready to learn to jump in where needed. Lives were reset not only for those directly impacted, but for those outside the blast or crash zones, observing on TV sets from a safe distance, realizing how precipitous that safety really is, and how valuable help can be.
There were career military men and women who quickly went to battle. There were those who had never considered such service lining up to enlist, going to fight in a country they didn’t know, with people hiding in caves, in what would become America’s longest war even though the U.S. Congress has not declared war since 1941.
Sept. 11, 2001, has left us grappling with many questions, some of which we as a nation too often glibly sidestepped with simplistic slogans rather than facing with honest debate: Have we opened our heart enough in the aftermath or closed our minds too much? Have we taken sufficient steps for security or sacrifice too many rights in the name of safety?
Sixteen years later, it feels at times that we let 9/11 bring out the worst in us. It pays to pause and remember it also brings out the best in us, and to pursue that lesson daily.
— Times Leader