Nation’s strength apparent in wake of terrorist attacks

A day of sorrow

Editor’s Note: This editorial was first published on Sept. 12, 2001. 

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On Tuesday we lost more than most of us could have imagined. Thousands of lives were lost; so much so that quantifying it with the simple word “thousands” seems to trivialize it — as if it’s not enough to describe what happened Tuesday. Countless numbers of Americans spent the day in fear of where their loved ones might be, wondering how everything could have happened and fearing what could still lay ahead.

As we watched the events unfold, we stared in disbelief — the shock numbing us, the horror covering our flesh in goosebumps, the heartache brimming over our eyes and the fear rising. Fear, because what would never happen to us, just did.

Our buildings have been bombed before. Terrorists have attacked us. But we all know Sept. 11, 2001 was different. For the first time for many of us, we saw our country’s vulnerability. We were children who thought their parents could do no wrong. And on Tuesday, we saw for the first time that they didn’t have the answers to everything.

Tragedy happens every day in other countries. Utter fear and insecurity is felt around the world. But this fear is new to us. We’ve felt new levels of vulnerability and experienced a new kind of insecurity. When the Pentagon was attacked, it was more than just a damaged building with tragic loss of life. To us, the Pentagon means security. It’s is our nation’s intelligence. They are our guardian angels, and someone just clipped their wings.

We are down, but not defeated. Our nation is shaken, but not destroyed. It will take a long time for the reality of what happened to sink in. The word “surreal” has been redefined for all of us. But the terrorists will only have won if we continue to live in fear. The cloud that covered Manhattan has covered all of us. But we must dust ourselves off, wait for the clouds to clear and look to what’s next.

There are things we can do close to home. There are blood drives taking donors across the community. Offer what you can. Donate food and anything else you can to the survivors. Be respectful to those who might have a connection to this event that you couldn’t even know about.

We must share our sorrow and condolences with those who have lost loved ones. Most of our priorities have been shattered and rebuilt. Remember to tell the people who mean something to you that you love them.

Two days ago we were immortal. Yesterday our world collapsed. Today we must struggle to heal our wounds and forever remember the scar that has been imprinted on our nation and our hearts.

Nation’s strength apparent in wake of terrorist attacks

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“For the first time for many of us, we saw our country’s vulnerability.” And to some extent, the 2001-02 Editorial Board’s words 12 years ago still ring true today: Sept. 11, is still one of the first times our generation saw evil brought upon our own country, on our own soil. It’s still the first major historical event that manifests in our minds when we consider this generation’s experiences with terror and tragedy.

Not to say that we aren’t still fearful, but as these vicious acts persist, we become more desensitized to violence. Fear may have been new then, but it’s fairly routine today. We expect fear, rather than treat it as a spontaneous phenomenon. The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December 2012, the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting in August 2012 and the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013: Domestic terrorism or international terrorism, innocent lives were lost. Today’s violence may not be of the same magnitude as the events surrounding Sept. 11; but nonetheless, they have similar intentions to harm our country and take the lives of innocent Americans.

Following the attack, Sept. 11 became a household term when discussing terrorism – perpetuated for weeks, even months through news headlines and word-of-mouth. But now, when we hear about similar acts of violence, we dwell on them until the media spews out something else more worthwhile.

Through tragedy comes growth. And despite being exposed to conflict after conflict, Americans haven’t lost their sense of community and compassion. Those who have been directly affected by these tragedies never mourn alone. We mourn together as a country. It could be seen in the flood of paper snowflakes made by Americans across the country that were sent to Newtown, Conn., to welcome Sandy Hook students back to school following the shootings. It could be seen in the millions of dollars raised for Boston Marathon victims. It could also be seen in the strangers who showed up to honor the Sikh temple shooting victims.

These tragedies are the worst events our country can face, but we face them together. Despite the nature of these attacks, they do spark the sense of community that brings light through darkness.

We hope that future generations do not have to view terror as inevitable. But if our past and present portray anything, it’s that terror exists and will continue to exist. Yet at the same time, our past depicts how unbelievably resilient and cohesive we can be when faced with such events.

The 2001 Editorial Board’s words were spoken nearly a decade ago, but they nonetheless resonate with this board 12 years later: “We are down, but not defeated. Our nation is shaken, but not destroyed.”