It’s a painful date to remember.
Sept. 11, 2001, will never resonate like July 4, 1776, or Oct. 19, 1781, when the British surrendered at Yorktown, or July 20, 1969, when man first walked on the moon.
Instead, 9/11 joins the sad list of memorable dates like April 12, 1861, when rebellious forces fired on Fort Sumner, opening the grim four years of the Civil War; Dec. 7, 1941, when a Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor hurtled America into World War II; or Nov. 22, 1963, when the promise of a gifted young president ended in shocking violence in Dallas.
That’s how we recall Sept. 11, 2001. We remember the shock that we were under attack, that terrorists had so easily commandeered four airplanes and targeted New York City and Washington, D.C., killing nearly 3,000 people.
We well recall the rising anger we felt as we learned that Osama bin Laden had concocted this despicable act of murder and destruction and had found 19 men so craven, so without feeling or faith, to carry out his evil wishes.
We will never forget the sense of frustration and shame that once again America had been caught napping, as we had in Hawaii 60 years earlier. Once again, our enemy was known to us, and we had been warned to prepare for a strike against our country. Once again, we failed to act until it was too late.
It’s important for us to remember that. We also must honor the fearless men and women who stood up for themselves and their country that day, including the heroes aboard United Airlines Flight 93 who rallied together to storm the cockpit in an attempt to wrest control from the vicious thugs who had hijacked the plane.
They may have died, but not in vain. Their flight was headed for Washington, D.C., with either the White House or the Capitol as a target. Thanks to their courage and willingness to battle back, that mission of madness and murder was not completed.
We also must honor the 412 emergency responders who gave their all at the doomed World Trade Center. They entered burning structures that had been struck by jet planes loaded with fuel — surely realizing the terrible risk they faced.
Still, they did so willingly, eagerly, wanting to save as many lives as possible. Their efforts must never be forgotten, and we must renew our commitment to caring for and assisting these American heroes for the rest of their lives.
We also urge you to remember Sept. 12, 2001. It’s not a famous date, but its meaning is perhaps equally important.
It’s the day we woke up knowing what had happened, aware of the great challenge before us. We came together as a nation and felt unified in sorrow and anger and resolve.
Sioux County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Jamison Van Voorst told us he wants people to think of that date as well this weekend.
“I wish America would get back to how we were as a county on Sept. 12,” Van Voorst said. “We all came together. We were unified. This country was undivided.”
We are all well aware of the deep divisions that currently ail our country. Our major political parties are focused on fighting and attacking each other, not seeking compromise and common ground.
All too often, the major media stirs passions and fuels the firestorm. Our national dialogue is shouted, not calmly discussed.
People battle verbally and at times physically over political, religious and social beliefs. We seem to be a land torn apart by anger, with little hope of a fury abating. Our conversations are filled with more heat than light, and that only burns everything in its path.
Van Voorst said he remembers a spirit of dedication and determination two decades ago. We were hurt and we healed together. Perhaps this weekend’s somber anniversary offers an opportunity to reflect on that and seek a road back to a wiser, quieter, better environment.
“We as a country can get back to, ‘Hey, let’s mourn together, let’s fix problems together,’” he said. “Enough of the polarization. I would hope we could pause as a country and come to our senses.”
If we could find a way to do that, it would be a date worth remembering and celebrating.