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Renewing the American Spirit Ten Years Later

By Keith Spencer

September 11, 2001 – Just three days after withdrawing from flight school and three months following my graduation from high school, I watched the attacks unfold from my childhood bedroom in a world where today’s virtual connectivity did not yet exist. My father was working at Logan the morning of the hijacking, and I watched the events unfold with my mother as she prepared to go off to work.

Never in my life had I felt such sorrow about an issue surrounding our national interest. Like so many of today’s twenty-somethings, I felt as though I was witnessing the coming of a new age, an age where we truly felt vulnerable for the first time in our lives. Malicious forces were attacking not just New York City and Washington, D.C. but the entire nation.

The aftermath of that day left us feeling a sense of togetherness. It left us filled us with a sense of anger, but with a sense of patriotism not seen in decades. There was and still is a sense that our world may never fully embrace tolerance among all populations, a dream embraced by most Americans.

As we honor the heroes and remember the victims on such a disastrous day, we also take this time to ask: what have we learned?

The emotion is still raw. It still feels like yesterday for so many, especially the friends and families of the dead. There isn’t a day that goes by where they are not thought about.

Within a span of less than two hours, our country completely changed. We watched in horror as these attacks were forever burned into our memory. In an instant, we watched as our police officers, fire fighters, and volunteers were transformed into heroes, renewing a sense of patriotism that spawned the sale of millions of American flags.

Some resolution has come to the problems thrust into the forefront of our minds from that day forward.

While mastermind of this vicious attack has finally been brought to justice, our country has been left terribly fragile: an economy where millions have lost jobs, two wars that have claimed the lives of more than 4,400 soldiers, airlines struggling to recover and modernize, and citizens still wary to fly, especially amid renewed concerns over terrorism.

Today, it’s easier to acknowledge that we fell short of our responsibilities leading up to the attack. We were not as prepared as we thought we were.

Yet we are wiser in so many ways today. Our police and public officials know how to better prevent terrorism, and it is a miracle and blessing that we have not yet suffered another large-scale attack.

We’ve begun to rebuild Ground Zero. Despite the arduous journey and immense cost associated with its construction, the possibility of rebuilding the World Trade Center bigger and better is now reality, however, lower Manhattan, the Pentagon, and the fields of Shanksville will forever serve as a reminder that our existence is fragile.

However, its simply obvious that the trauma and fear created by the events of September 11 and the decade that has followed left us feeling pessimistic about our future.

I think its important to remember that the story of America is a cascade of catastrophes from which there is and never will be an ultimate escape. We must recover. We must rise up out of the darkest hour, even when it seems we might be heading for failure.

The American spirit of perseverance must be rekindled both in honor of those we have lost and in the hope to create a better world for generations to come.

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