Remember the heroes

first_imgTHE emotions of Sept. 11, 2001, are so raw that even six years later they are still palpable: The shock, the sorrow, the fear, the anger, the helplessness; followed by the patriotism, the pride, the sense of national unity and resolve. After six years, we’ve gone through more grief cycles than the psychiatrists can name. We’re less fearful, if only because we’ve grown tired of being afraid; and we’ve long since lost our unity, if only because bickering was our default way of life. But there’s also much more at work in our complex national psyche. Six years without another major attack on American soil has made us feel safer, whether justifiably or not. We’re not convinced, as we were then, that the next attack will come at any moment, and so we spend less time thinking about it. Yet, despite having achieved temporary safety, we are also well aware that we have achieved nothing close to “victory” in the War on Terror. The situation in Iraq may have momentarily improved, but it remains a mess. Afghanistan is far from stable. And we continue to apprehend operational terrorist cells across the world – a testament to the hard work of our security forces, but also a reminder that the enemy has by no means surrendered. Six years later, it’s not any clearer how to battle the idea that has declared war on us – a militant, radical variation of Islam. Even White House officials don’t seem to believe in the Bush Doctrine anymore, and no one in either party has offered anything approaching a coherent replacement. All of which makes for a strange 9-11 anniversary. No one wants to relive the agony and the pain. No one wants to be reminded, for the zillionth time, that “it’s not a matter of if, but when” the next attack will come. And least of all, no one wants to endure the politicians’ crass attempts to manipulate those memories for partisan purposes. So perhaps when remembering 9-11, it’s best not to focus on the horror, which would be emotionally exhausting; nor to speculate about future, which is ambiguous as ever; nor to engage in political fights – we’ve had plenty of those already . Instead, maybe the best way to use this day is to remember the heroes. Think of the police, medics and firefighters who stormed those towers, looking to save others’ lives while knowing that they were sacrificing their own. Think of those passengers on Flight 93, ordinary people who fought terrorists with their bare hands, saving hundreds, if not thousands, of their fellow Americans in the process. Think about the soldiers who, ever since, have done whatever their confused nation has asked of them. On 9-11, in the form of 19 hijackers, we saw humanity at its worst. But then, and ever since, we have seen it at its best in countless others. The heroes around us have given an example of how to live and love that transcends both the uncertainties and the divisions of these times. It’s their example – their selflessness, their bravery, their generosity – that we would all do well to emulate as the country continues to come to terms with the day that radically changed life for us all.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img