With the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on our nation’s very fabric approaching I became curious as to what, exactly, I had written in my first column after the attacks. I have had a couple of computers crash since that time, and I’m not real good at backing up my work, so I made a rare visit to the newspaper office to take a look at my column.
The one that appeared the very next day began, "It's all different now." And it all was -- for a short while.
The column from the weekend following those vile attacks was an "open letter" to terrorists at large. These are some of the things I shared with my audience.
"Let me tell you a few things that you may not know. Let me tell you some things I have seen this week. I've seen people heading off to work each morning with flags and red, white and blue ribbons flying from their car antennas. That is a good sign for America but a bad sign for you. I've seen flags and ribbons and balloons adorning mailboxes and fence posts and places of business all over my little community.
"I've seen yellow school buses picking up children every morning and taking them to schools -- where they will continue to learn about the goodness of their country in spite of all you can do. I've seen groups of high school students join hands spontaneously and pray for our country. I've seen an entire student body adorned in our country's colors.
"I've seen the focus of our nation change from trivial matters to a more serious one -- what to do about you. I don't think you'll like the answer we will come up with.
"Just yesterday afternoon I saw a prayer service in our National Cathedral. It was a service that you couldn't possibly understand because you just don't get us. That's obvious.
"At the service I saw black folks and white folks holding hands. I heard prayers led by Muslims, Jews and Christians. I saw all of our former presidents who were able to be there -- Democrats and Republicans -- standing shoulder to shoulder, united in a common cause."
That's how it was 10 years ago. We, the people, were united, at least for a little while. We closed ranks. We waved the flag. We displayed our colors. We really did stand shoulder to shoulder -- black and white, Muslim, Christian and Jew, Democrat and Republican.
Now here we are, 10 years later, and we, the people, are about as divided as we have been in a generation. Blame politics -- or politicians -- for our lack of resolve. Blame our short attention spans. Blame our greed. Blame the elements of our human nature that give us tunnel vision and prevent us from seeing the big picture. Blame the economy -- that's what everyone seems to blame for all of our moral shortcomings these days.
Blame anyone you want, but, please -- please, for this one weekend, do not forget to remember what we have lost as a nation. Please take time to remember the 3,000 or so people who had their lives taken from them on that Tuesday morning, 10 years ago. Remember the firefighters and the policemen and the other emergency responders who went up into those towers, even as they were about to fall down around them, sacrificing their own lives in an effort to save others. Remember the passengers on the fourth hijacked plane who chose to die fighting in an effort to save others.
And please remember the men and women of our armed services, military and non-military, who have laid their lives on the altar of freedom in an effort to keep us safe from future attacks. And please remember those who have left loved ones -- time after time after time in some instances -- and placed themselves in harm's way on our behalf.
It would be nice if the remembrances surrounding the 10th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11 would springboard us into a period of unity and understanding and bipartisanship. It would be nice, but it's not likely to happen. If the actual war on terror didn't keep us together, it is unlikely that the anniversary of its beginning will.
But we owe it to a few hundred thousand people to at least take time to reflect on the events of the day and their meaning to our Republic.
At 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, I was sitting in front of a television, watching in disbelief, as our country was under attack. At 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2011, I will be sitting, God willing, in a pew at Conyers First United Methodist Church, taking part in a special service to honor the first responders and members of the United States military who have given all on our behalf.
I know I'll have a lot of company, and if you can't be there in person, please be with those heroes in spirit. When I say it's the least we can do, I mean that it's the very least.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.