Here in the Northeast and little over an hour away from New York City, it’s a bright clear, late-summer day, much like the kind of day it was eighteen years ago. The memorials came and went this morning, and increasingly, as I meet with my students, there are less who actually remember, even more who not more than infants, if they were even born yet. But I remember. I remember the sign flashed on Route One and the Turnpike that said All roads to New York City are closed. I remember frantically trying to get in touch with my sister who lived there in those pre-cell phone days, the message on my landline …all circuits to New York City are busy. Try again later. I remember the jets flying overhead from the Air Force base three miles from my home, their deafening sound filling the air for hours. I remember seeing the buildings fall. I remember the shock and then the silence. And then just numb.
But I also remember the resilience. The camaraderie. The sense of pride. The flags everywhere because there was no Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives. There was just Americans. And from all that wreckage, we as one people, were never prouder to be one. It didn’t last, of course. The finger-pointing and the ugly reactions to anyone who looked too different came all to quickly. But for a while there, a terrible tragedy brought us all together. Then, as now, I sincerely hope we wouldn’t need another to accomplish the same thing.