Editorial: United we stand

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 10, 2009

Across America, people will gather today to honor those who perished in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and to reflect on the traumatic events that occurred eight years ago.
In Salisbury, as in years past, the official observance takes place at the Salisbury-Rowan Firefighters’ Memorial, adjacent to Chestnut Hill Cemetery, beginning at 8:45 a.m. The location is a fitting tribute to the 343 New York City firefighters who were among the 3,000 victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The firefighters, police and rescue personnel who perished on that day are rightly remembered as fallen heroes who gave their lives in service to their fellow citizens.
On Capitol Hill in Washington, a new plaque pays tribute to another group of heroes ó the passengers and crew of Flight 93 who died when the plane crashed into a Pennsylvania field as they wrestled control from the hijackers. While we may not know the exact target those hijackers had in mind, we do know that the selfless courage of many of those aboard Flight 93 undoubtedly saved countless more lives that might have joined that day’s somber toll.
This is a day for remembrance of the barbaric attacks of that day, the innocent Americans who died as a result and the perpetual duty to protect and defend ourselves against those who have dedicated themselves to the destruction of America and other freedom-loving civilizations.
As a nation, we suffered a great loss on Sept. 11 ó loss of lives and loss of a perhaps naive belief that such an attack couldn’t happen on our own soil. But in the smoldering rubble of that day, we also found something ó a unity of purpose and common cause that deserves recalling also, especially when the nation now appears so contentiously fragmented that a presidential address to schoolchildren touches off a mini-firestorm of controversy and disagreement over public policy devolves into vicious ideological attacks.
In one sense, the fact we’re now engaging in verbal fisticuffs over health insurance (or, closer to home, holiday light displays) could be taken as a healthy sign of civic normalcy. Far better to be arguing about pre-existing conditions and “public options” than anxiously following color-coded terrorism alerts and panicking at low-flying planes. But as we reverently remember the selfless heroism shown by so many who died on Sept. 11, 2001, let’s also recall how it summoned forth the better selves of so many citizens who rededicated themselves to building stronger communities and rooting out the twin evils of blind ignorance and unreasoning hatred. As the smoke hovered over Ground Zero, we clearly saw how our individual liberties go hand in hand with a shared destiny. We realized that, however bitterly debates may rage, at the end of the day, we’re all Americans. We’re realized we’re all in this thing together, and that’s a thought worth remembering now, too.