The reality of the day after

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

support.

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.

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