When America Stood as One

Where were you when you heard the terrible news?

Most of us in Hawaii were asleep when hijackers smashed passenger jets into the World Trade Center and Pentagon on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. The first aircraft hit the North Tower at 2:45 a.m. HST.

Some of us were roused by frantic phone calls. “Turn on the TV, we’re under attack!” That’s how we learned of the unfolding disaster. By then, both towers had collapsed and another hijacked jet had crashed in a Pennsylvania field. The news hit like a punch to the gut.

Along with the rest of the world, we watched the horrific images replay over and over. Footage of jets flying into the towers and then those towers collapsing was as sickening as it was difficult to look away from. Anger conjured by the despicable acts was tempered by overwhelming sorrow for the innocent lives lost and the families left behind. America felt tremendous pride in the heroes who responded to the crisis with such bravery and self-sacrifice.

A total of 2,996 people died in the attacks, including more than 400 first responders. Many more put their future health on the line to mount rescue and recovery efforts amid a dangerous haze of smoke and pulverized building materials. We learned that passengers of United Flight 93 fought the hijackers, heroically sacrificing their lives to keep the jet from being used against another intended target, reportedly the U.S. Capitol Building.

Americans showed the world that we may bend, but we do not break. The attacks brought the citizens and supporters of this country closer than they had been since perhaps the end of World War II. There was a pervasive feeling of wanting to do something positive for each other and our wounded nation.

The sentiments ran worldwide. Enemies and allies rallied behind the United States. The French newspaper Le Monde printed its famous headline, “We are all Americans.”

What happened? In too many minds the collective attitude of “we are all in this together” has devolved into “my side is all that matters.” The global pandemic seemed like it might be the next crisis to bind the divisions in our populace. Didn’t we all face a common threat and share a common goal?

Instead, almost along party lines, there are divides over vaccines, masks and safety mandates. Science be damned, coronavirus has become a political football.

On the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, let’s hope all sides join together to pay tribute to those killed and those left behind. We offer thanks and condolences to the duty-bound men and women who rushed into the breach. Amidst the horror, they all gave us something to rally around.

Where were you the day Americans stood as one?


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