Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Later

Like millions of other Americans, I remember September 11, 2001 quite clearly. I remember watching the twin towers collapse on TV. I remember wondering whether a skyscraper near me would be next. I remember the sudden panic and uncertainty, the sense of a nation hanging on the edge of chaos.

The modern liberal society depends upon a sense of order and openness: the terrorists of 9/11, like many other terrorists, sought to detonate those twin pillars. And they did cause great suffering and fear and, for many Americans, many sleepless, tear-stained nights. That terrorist attack has cast a shadow over the past decade, which has been suffused with anger, resentment, paralysis, and a haunting sense of disappointed hopes.

Yet, despite the darkness, there are still sparks. For all the wreckage, the terrorists have not yet been able to break the back of the spirit of this republic. Though the forces of violence, radicalism, and tribalism have risen across the globe, the dream of a better order has not yet fully vanished. Though hopes have been disappointed, hope itself has not been extinguished.

September 11 has become a day of mourning: for the dead, for the orphans and widows and widowers, for the injured and lost, and perhaps for what might have been had not this been a decade of terror. We remember the suffering and the dead and those serving in foreign lands. But we should also remember the heroism of that day and later days. Professionals and average citizens rose to the challenge to save lives on that September day. The passengers on United 93 broke through the frenzy of panic to save countless other lives by their own willing sacrifice. Nihilists are willing to die to kill; true heroes are willing to die to save.

Many years ago in a different age of crisis, Franklin Roosevelt told us that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Let us not forget the place of fear, nor let it usurp the thrones due to reason, hope, and charity. The promise of this republic---the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness---has not yet expired. Terrorists with their bigotries and fears cannot kill it. Only we can, if we surrender to an angry despair.

Now is not the time to surrender or to forget. Now is the time to continue and to dare and to try and try and try.

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