Our View: What we all can do to honor 9/11 victims

A plane approaches New York’s World Trade Center moments before it struck the tower at left, as seen from downtown Brooklyn, on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. In an unprecedented show of terrorist horror, the 110-story towers collapsed in a shower of rubble and dust after two hijacked airliners carrying scores of passengers slammed into them. (AP Photo/ William Kratzke) -

Sept. 11, 2001.

If you were old enough to remember that day, it’s certainly one you will never forget, not even if you lived five lifetimes.

The first thing that stands out is how gorgeous it was here in Luzerne County exactly 17 years ago — not a cloud in a crystal-clear blue sky.

A member of our editorial board also recalls the confusion of the day, and one incident in particular illustrating that.

It was early afternoon in Hazleton, and the country was just starting to realize the magnitude of what had happened. At that point, it was also unclear if there would be more attacks.

At a main city intersection, there was a heavy police presence and officers stopping and directing vehicles.

It looked like a tractor-trailer had smashed into a light pole and knocked out several traffic signals, creating a tangled mess of congestion.

But on that particular day, in light of the morning’s events and all the flashing lights and emergency vehicles, many folks thought differently.

Looking at the faces of fellow drivers, you could see they were afraid and confused.

Was this another attack? Is this the new normal, a constant state of chaos?

Another distinct feeling was helplessness.

If you weren’t a member of the military or law enforcement, what could the average person do to help the situation? The events of 9/11 seemed too big and too consequential for just one person to make any significant difference.

Fortunately, the helpless feeling quickly evaporated and many of us began taking action.

Remember the droves of people who answered the call to donate blood to help the injured?

How about the tremendous displays of patriotism and unity that swept over our political leaders and citizenry?

It was a memorable response and it showed the power of average people galvanized behind a meaningful cause.

Fast-forward to Sept. 11, 2018, a time when the events of Sept. 11, 2001, are foggy for many of our youngest citizens, as noted in our feature story Sunday.

To them, it’s just another boring history lesson.

In memory of the fallen, let’s do our part to reverse that trend.

First, if you have a person under 18 in your house, make a point of telling him or her about Sept. 11, how we got to that point, who was responsible, and how America responded and changed since that fateful day.

Second, become a more engaged citizen.

Even simple acts repeated many times over by many people will greatly strengthen our democracy — the American way, so to speak — the very thing the terrorists attacked.

One of the simplest and most patriotic things to do on this Patriot Day is to register to vote. Oct. 9 is the last day to register to be eligible to vote in the critical November election. If you’re not registered, get off your butt and do it.

We also want to point our school leaders to a state initiative called the Governor’s Civic Engagement Award, which promotes student-led voter registration efforts at high schools.

The state is looking for more schools to participate. It’s a “great way to teach young people civics and get them involved as active citizens,” said acting Secretary of State Robert Torres.

Bottom line: Engage any way you can, and realize how lucky you are to be an American as we mark a sad anniversary.

It would be a perfect way to honor those who died on 9/11 and to ensure the United States remains that “shining city upon a hill” well into the future.

God bless America!

— Times Leader

A plane approaches New York’s World Trade Center moments before it struck the tower at left, as seen from downtown Brooklyn, on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. In an unprecedented show of terrorist horror, the 110-story towers collapsed in a shower of rubble and dust after two hijacked airliners carrying scores of passengers slammed into them. (AP Photo/ William Kratzke)
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/web1_911-2-2-cmyk.jpgA plane approaches New York’s World Trade Center moments before it struck the tower at left, as seen from downtown Brooklyn, on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. In an unprecedented show of terrorist horror, the 110-story towers collapsed in a shower of rubble and dust after two hijacked airliners carrying scores of passengers slammed into them. (AP Photo/ William Kratzke)