9/11 is a day many don't forget. Every year I ask my mother and father to retell their own personal stories about how they took the news of the attack on the Twin Towers.
I was two years old when the attack happened, and it wasn't until fourth grade that I understood the severity of what really happened on that fateful day. For almost six years I was blinded in the ignorance and bliss of childhood, but learning about 9/11 changed my way of looking at the world.
It was the first time in my life that I was aware that people from anywhere could attack our country. This realization made me scared; and in some, it turned into hatred. Growing up with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on the news, I believed, blindly, that those wars were fought to get back at those that attacked us, and I started justifying them in my mind.
Another thing that I look back to when I compare 2001 to where we are now is that, for a time, in the growing partisanship rift in our country, we truly united as a nation to remember and honor those that we lost in the terrorist attacks.
Now, more than a decade later, I find that besides some rare occasions, we have drifted further apart as a society. It is reflected in our politics and how we treat those that we view as different. According to Pietro Nivola of National Affairs, politicians have drastically been leading toward partisanship, which has resulted in dysfunctional government.
However, the polarization of our leaders is a direct reflection upon us, the electorate, who vote them into office. The two previous presidential elections have been one of the most divisive elections we had in over a century. Now today, it seems that the only thing that unites all people of parties, faiths, genders and creeds are occasions like 9/11, where we once again unite as a single nation, as Americans.
9/11 is a burning fire in the American consciousness, a light that every year draws us together to remember those who were taken in what President George W. Bush describes as “evil, despicable acts of terror.” However, that light, while still shining, is getting down to its embers.
When looking at the last 20 years of American history, the war on terror, the Great Recession, party polarization, distrust in traditional media and the COVID-19 pandemic, we see that we have drifted apart from our fellow Americans. We have grown to distrust each other, to condemn our choices or our actions. We cannot endure if we continue like this.
Whatever our differences, whatever divides us, we can still say we are Americans. We must look past our tribalistic tendencies of parties and other groups and kindle the flame of unity.
We must extend our hand across the table of fellowship to our fellow Americans to come together as one nation. This can be done, and it will be done. America will endure.
I would like to end on the words of one of America's greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln dealt with a hyper-partisan country, and on the fields of Gettysburg gave a speech to commemorate those who died in defense of the Union. Lincoln urges us to remember that these people represent the American experiment, an idea of liberty and expression trying to be snuffed out by an outside force. I ask every American to reflect on his words from the famous Gettysburg Address.
“It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”