Tragedy may endure for a night, but morning in America will always come
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Seventeen years ago yesterday, September 11, 2001, I walked into my first period world geography class at Rigby High School. The TV was on. I remember vividly the live footage on Good Morning America of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center in New York City.
Just as clear in my mind is the plume of smoke coming from the lower tower and people scrambling in fear.
As a 15-year-old kid, I did not fully understand the significance of what was happening at the time.
I recall seeing President Bush on TV several days later addressing the first responders near the rubble at ground zero.
“I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”
This was my generation’s “day of infamy” speech. Those three sentences said it all. I got the chills when I heard the crowd begin chanting “USA, USA, USA.”
The speech stirred my soul and I felt a sense of pride in my country, my fellow countrymen and the American spirit.
The war on terror had officially begun.
I will never forget what I witnessed that day and the sense of unity that seemed to prevail in the ensuing weeks in my community and across the country.
Two generations earlier, on December 8, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered a speech over America’s airwaves.
“Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the empire of Japan.”
My grandmother, who recently passed away, could remember vividly hearing those words over the radio. As a 23-year-old kid, she did not fully understand the significance of what was happening at the time.
I recall re-watching the speech FDR delivered to Congress and the nation from the White House in Washington, D.C.
“No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.”
I got the chills when I heard the crowd applaud. Once again, my soul was stirred and I was overcome with a sense of pride in my country, my American forbearers and the American spirit.
World War II had officially begun.
Those who were old enough to witness that day have never forgotten the sense of unity that seemed to prevail in the ensuing weeks in their community and across the country.
I’ve written this post September 12, rather than September 11, for good reason.
“We promised ourselves the country would never forget (9/11),” a business leader recently told me. “As generations come and go, that’s a hard promise to keep. In the face of this new generation, we all have a responsibility to maintain this legacy that’s changed our world.”
It is not the tragedy, but America’s response to the tragedy the following day, that makes these events so unforgettable. On September 12 and December 8, in the wake of an enemy attack, America lived up to the words of its pledge as “one nation under God, indivisible.” On those days, and many weeks thereafter, Americans were on bended knee and were united in one cause.
When tragedy strikes, Americans stand ready to lend a helping hand. America’s people may lose their way for a time. They may endure hard things for a night and even fall flat on their face, but morning in America will always come.
In the face of adversity, we never give up. We triumph over our foes and come out stronger in the end because we know who we are and in whom we trust.
We are Americans, one nation under God.