On Sept. 12, 2001, Americans everywhere awoke and were, perhaps,
blessed with a moment or two of forgetfulness about the horrors of
the day before. Then the awareness came rushing back -- the memories
of the fiery images of inhumanity -- and we knew that no matter how
much we wished it otherwise, we would never be the same.
Everywhere were signs that life was a long way from normal that
Wednesday. Someone awaking from a two-day coma might have described
the setting as peaceful and serene. But there was little serenity in
our hearts, and our thoughts were far removed from peace.
You saw it in the eyes of passersby, in the candlelight vigils, in
the solemn gatherings and in the sudden and renewed fashion of Stars
and Stripes everywhere. The attacks were the first words on the lips
of everyone you met, were the first thing you spoke of to everyone
who met you. And this phenomenon, as much as the frightful images on
the screen, communicated the scope of the tragedy.
On Sept. 12, 2001, many of us left our homes and did things we
rarely would do on a Wednesday, if ever at all. We took our families
to our churches or temples or mosques and prayed tearfully, our
thoughts full of anger, fear and confusion. We gave blood and brought
others to give blood. We wrote heartfelt letters of sympathy to
families we had never met, and with some of these letters we included
money or other gestures of compassion. We wrote to the President and
lawmakers, urging action, demanding justice or expressing our fervent
It was a day spent in search of solace and answers. It was a day
in which many of us realized for the first time that, yes, after all
the cynicism and criticism and apathy, we loved our country and were
proud to be Americans.
Sept. 11, 2001 was one of the darkest hours in our history, and we
must never forget it. But we should also take pains to remember what
happened that strange day after -- the day we stood up not just as a
nation, but also as individuals, and acted. We didn't leave it to
someone else to give blood. We didn't leave it to others to give
comfort to the families of the victims. We didn't sit quietly by and
wait to see how our government would respond. We took it upon
ourselves to get involved.
We should remember the day it finally occurred to us that it's up
to each of us -- each and every one of us -- to make a difference.