It was U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, a military legend from World War II and the Korean conflict, who reminded us of this truth: “Americans never quit.”Another proud patriot, former U.S. Sen. Tom …
It was U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, a military legend from World War II and the Korean conflict, who reminded us of this truth: “Americans never quit.”
Another proud patriot, former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, echoed much the same when he spoke of the hideous Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America, “We will win this struggle — not for glory, nor wealth, nor power, but for justice, for freedom, and for peace, so help us God.”
To this day, their words resonate in our minds — and most importantly, our hearts — with emotion unparalleled in the annals of American history.
Theirs are the words of a level of conviction — from two leaders of two generations — that tell the story of a nation and the perils of her people. But all are perils that have been overcome in the face of staggering odds.
Anyone who calls himself an American, or considers herself a citizen of this homeland, would agree: Our country today faces many challenges, some of them unseen while others stand out like the tallest child in the class.
Some are ugly. Some are divisive. Some are inexplicable. Others border on plain evil.
But there’s not one of them that can’t be resolved. All it takes is a nation that believes in itself and a people who are willing to work together to find common cause in a society whose faces are more alike than they are unalike.
It also takes a little inspiration, such as that voiced in the wake of 9/11, an unthinkable tragedy whose lone reward was that it brought our people together.
Consider these words from America’s past:
• “For me and my family personally, September 11 was a reminder that life is fleeting, impermanent and uncertain. Therefore, we must make every moment and nurture it with affection, tenderness, beauty, creativity and laughter.” — Deepak Chopra
• “September 11 is one of our worst days, but it brought out the best in us. It unified us as a country and showed our charitable instincts and reminded us of what we stood for and stand for.” — Sen. Lamar Alexander
• “On that terrible day, a nation became a neighborhood, all Americans became New Yorkers.” — George Pataki, former New York governor
• “What happened on September 11 compels us to focus on who we are as Americans, what we stand for, what really matters in our lives … family, friends, faith and freedom.” — Bob Taft
• “If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate.” — Sandy Dahl, wife of Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl
• “Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11.” — Barack Obama, former U.S. president
• “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundation of our tallest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. We will not tire, we will not falter, we will not fail.” — George W. Bush, former U.S. president
• “Remember the hours after September 11 when we came together as one! It was the worst day we have ever seen, but it brought out the best in all of us.” — Secretary of State John Kerry
• “September 11, 2001, revealed heroism in ordinary people who might have gone through their lives never called upon to demonstrate the extent of their courage.” — Geraldine Brooks
• “The attacks of September 11th were intended to break our spirit. Instead, we have emerged stronger and more unified. We are more determined than ever to live our lives in freedom.” — Rudy Giuliania, former New York City mayor
On this solemn day of reflection, it also is appropriate to consider the words of another former American president, Harry Truman, who offered: “America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.”
Legends do not corner the market on inspiration. A simple yet elegant reminder came from Catherine Hernandez, who spoke of the love of her father, one of 3,000 victims of the attacks on America.
From the World Trade Center site in 2008, she reminisced, “My father, Norberto, was a pastry chef at Windows on the World in Tower One. For 10 years, he made many fancy and famous desserts, but the sweetest dessert he made was the marble cake he made for us at home. Whenever we parted, Poppi would say, ‘Te amo. Vaya con Dios.’ And this morning, I want to say the same thing to you, Poppi. I love you. Go with God.”
In the 17 years since evil sent its henchmen to maim and murder the innocent, America has evolved.
We have wept together.
We have stood together.
We have rebuilt together.
Sadly, another divide now looms beyond the horizon. And “We, the People” of this great land must ask the inevitable question, “Will we stand as one? Or will we fall … as many?”
Whatever the answer, it is ours … and ours alone.
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