Do you remember that day in September when most Americans realized for the first time that we had been in a global war for a long time without even knowing it? Sure you do. It comes up every year around this time. We fill up our Facebook pages with pictures of flags and the Twin Towers standing tall. We salute the firefighters and policemen and other heroes of that day. We fly the flag at half staff and post messages thanking the soldiers who have served since that day -- especially the ones who have made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our nation.
We swap stories about where we were and what we were doing when we heard the terrible news and we vow, of course, to never forget. We did all that stuff yesterday. At least I hope we did.
Then we got up this morning and 9/11 is the last thing on our minds. You know and I know it, even if we don't admit it, even to ourselves. It has been 11 long years ago and we haven't been hit again on American soil -- at least not that the government will admit -- and Osama bin Laden sleeps with the fishes, thanks primarily to intelligence gathered at Guantanamo Bay and the courage of a team of Navy Seals who knew their mission and carried it out.
We have other things to worry about and, besides, that was 11 years ago and now gas is $4 a gallon. We can't live in the past.
I wish we could, though. I wish we could live back in the time that America was strong and independent and Americans were stronger collectively than we were individually. I wish we could live back in a time when we were a God-fearing nation and the great silent majority was not afraid to stand up for the ideals that made our nation great.
Abraham Lincoln once famously said, "America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." I know I sound like a broken record and I know that I seem to have become the self-appointed voice of gloom and doom, but I spend most of my days and a lot of my nights studying and discussing the history of this great Republic and when I observe the nonchalant attitude of most of her citizens -- and then an anniversary like 9/11 comes along -- well, it is hard to get these thoughts out of my mind.
I acquired a bit of perspective on the phenomena of forgetting history yesterday when I looked at the date on the masthead of my newspaper and realized that the attacks on the nation by Muslim terrorists occurred 11 years ago. Ironically, I was born 11 years after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and by the time I was old enough to realize what was going in the world, 1941 seemed like ancient history -- so I guess we haven't really changed that much as a people. I suppose we are simply traveling along the same continuum that has been taking us further and further from the roots of our independence.
But I do remember the day after Sept. 11, in 2001. I remember how strange it seemed to walk outside and not see planes flying overhead. I remember the universal hope we Americans had as emergency workers in New York City dug through the rubble that 24 hours earlier had been the World Trade Center -- the hope that more survivors would be found.
I remember the anger that we felt, especially as our televisions beamed images of spontaneous celebrations erupting across the Muslim world as news of the attacks spread around the world. I also remember the support of our allies as newspapers in Paris and Rome proclaimed, "We Are All Americans Today."
I remember President Bush standing on the rubble that had been the Trade Center, shouting encouragement to the rescue workers through a bullhorn. I remember the firefighters raising the American flag over an exposed beam, like the Marines raising the flag over Iwo Jima.
I remember the outrage of Georgia Sen. Zell Miller who said, "I want to bomb the hell out of somebody and I want to do it right now." I realize that wasn't a very pragmatic statement, but it expressed the feelings of a lot of us at the time.
I remember the prayer service in the National Cathedral, two days later, with Carter, Clinton, Bush and Bush sitting shoulder to shoulder, undivided for one brief shining moment, by party politics. I remember listening to the words of Billy Graham, America's minister, and being uplifted and energized with the hope that we, the people of the United States, could create something positive from this evil act -- that we would go forth, as Abraham Lincoln once said, "that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom."
I haven't seen that yet, but I am still hopeful--and I still remember that day in September. I hope and pray that we all do.
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.