Op-Ed: Never Forget -- but Remember Coming Together, too

Sep 11, 2019

It’s hard to believe the terror attacks on Sept. 11 were 18 years ago.

In some ways, it feels like it just happened. In other ways, it seems like forever ago.

I still vividly remember where I was and what I was doing that morning. I’m sure you do, too.

It was an awful event in our nation’s history, and we should never forget what happened, what it meant and what we lost on that terrible day.

We were attacked by evil men who perverted a religion as an excuse to do unspeakable and unfathomable acts of hate.

In the days that followed, I still remember President George W. Bush saying:

“The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war. When we think of Islam we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. Billions of people find comfort and solace and peace, and that’s made brothers and sisters out of every race, out of every race.

“America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country. Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms, and dads, and they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.”

If there was any good to come from the terrible attacks on Sept. 11, I remember the country coming together in the weeks and months that followed. There was disagreement, of course, but the political rancor was gone – at least for a while.

Today we have forgotten that feeling. People are name-calling and treating each other with incredible disrespect. That doesn’t seem like the America from 18 years ago.

Near the end of his presidency in 2008, standing at the Pentagon, Bush said, “One of the worst days in America’s history saw some of the bravest acts in Americans’ history. We’ll always honor the heroes of 9/11. And here at this hallowed place, we pledge that we will never forget their sacrifice.”

If you want to “Never Forget” the terror attacks of 9/11, don’t just hold on to the anger. Lend a hand to your neighbor, do something kind for a stranger or just be kind in general. That’s a much greater legacy in the post-9/11 era than hate and anger.

This column ran in the Charleston Gazette-Mail Metro Section on 9/11/19. 

Eric Douglas is the Associate Producer for Inside Appalachia, a newspaper and magazine columnist and author