Every generation has its defining moments. Usually, these are moments of tragedy more
than triumph, but sometimes the two go together. One of the defining moments of my generation is being marked with a tenth anniversary memorial this weekend. Memory is a funny thing. In speaking of past tragedies, I’ve always heard people say that they remember everything that happened that day. Do I? Well, not exactly. Perhaps that says something for my memory, or perhaps it is a mark of this particular tragedy that too much happened to remember all of it. Bits and pieces of the day are suspended in my mind like tiny creatures preserved in amber.

            Going into the break room at work with the idea of buying a coca cola, and instead standing in the doorway, watching a plane fly right into a building. Thinking this had to be a trailer for either the latest Hollywood thriller or a horror movie. The mind numbing shock moments later when we all discovered that it was, indeed, very real. The mind numbing disbelief that made thinking difficult. The reaction of customers and other employees as they realized they had family that might now be missing or dead. The collapse of the first tower, and then the second. And the silence. It was an eldritch silence, almost supernatural, as
though no one had the energy for the normal cheerful chatter of day to day life.

            It is my hope that we remember the lessons we learned that day, and in the days to follow. The first lesson is that there is greatness in everyone. On that day, there were the everyday heroes that exist in every society—the firemen, the EMS and first responders, and the police. But there were also more—people who were simply going about their lives as private citizens, who responded heroically when the evil touched them. Ordinary people do amazing things under extraordinary circumstances, and we need to remember and tap the potential that lies within each of us.

            The second is that we are a family, all of us, no matter where we come from and what we believe. We are a family by birthright as well as by circumstance. We are often a quarrelsome family, who fight about the most trivial of things, as siblings do, but when push comes to shove, we also band together against a
common enemy, and we are much the stronger for doing so.

            The third lesson is that we must look to our own house. We have a duty to ourselves and to one another. We must band together and become more than we could be separately, and we must protect one another. We haven’t seen much in the way of attack on our own soil, and we must take steps to guard against it, as much as
possible. Much of our response to the fear engendered by the attacks on the World Trade Center seemed to be a knee jerk reaction, and my hope is that we can actually sit down and find sustainable ways to actually protect our country from attack. If that means that we must close our borders at times, it is no more than every other nation in the world has done. If we must look to our allies for help, then let us hope we have cultivated those relationships properly. We must also work to conquer the problems that weaken us from within, and fracture the family—our prejudice (yes, it still exists), indifference, self absorption, and entitlement.  

            For the sake of our children, may we remember the lessons we learned that day and use them to help us grow stronger as a nation. The adversity we face will make us stronger if we let it. To those who died that day, and to those who struggle through without them, thank you. Thank you for giving us your best, and for the
sacrifices you made that day.

We will never forget.