09/11/11 — Our duty: All we have to do is remember the losses, the battles and the heroes

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Our duty: All we have to do is remember the losses, the battles and the heroes

We do not have the hard job when it comes to marking the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.

We are not families who will once again be reminded of a loved one's last moments, last words, last horrors.

We do not have to explain to a child why his or her mother or father will not be coming home again this year or to work hard to preserve a legacy of a mother or father some of them never got the chance to know.

We don't have to balance the need for a child to know the enormity of what happened to his or her mom or dad against the risk that the knowledge will forever alter that child's life.

We don't have to go to work every day and remember a fellow firefighter, police officer, or rescue worker who did not make it home every time a siren roars or an alarm sounds.

We have the easy part.

All we have to do is remember.

We have to remember how we felt when we heard the news that a plane had struck the first tower of the World Trade Center -- and the astonishment when we heard it happened a second time.

We have to remember the pictures of the towers coming down and the panic that filled the streets of New York as people tried to escape and, later, the sorrow and desperation of families who were hunting for loved ones not heard from since the attacks.

We have to remember how our hearts leapt up into our throats when we heard the Pentagon was hit -- and when we realized that among those lost were service men and women who had bravely fought for their country in some cases for more than a decade.

But there are other parts of that day and the ones that came after that we should remember, too.

We should remember the swell of pride we felt when we saw firefighters lift a flag at ground zero, surrounded by piles of debris, and when a group of U.S. service members unfurled a flag off the side of the Pentagon just hours after the third airliner hit Washington, D.C.

Those acts were two of the first messages to the world and to the murderers who committed these horrific acts that they had misjudged us, that this nation was too strong to give up and too united to ever be beaten by terrorists.

It was one of the moments when we came together.

And we should remember, too, when we heard what really happened on the plane that crashed to the ground in Pennsylvania -- the story of a group of men and women who decided that the terrorists on their plane were not going to use it for a weapon. We need to be humbled by the last conversations some of them had with loved ones they did not know they would ever see again -- and their determination to fight back, no matter what it cost.

We should remember the New York City police officers and firefighters who worked tirelessly, until their hands were bloody, to bring home as many of their colleagues as they could -- no matter how long it took.

We need to remember how we held hands, shared tears and hugs and thought about just what it meant to be an American. We should remember how our hearts swelled when we heard our national anthem and how tears flowed as we watched the flag wave in the breeze.

We should remember what we thought about our country and the men and women who live here with us.

We should remember the calls to service and the number of volunteers who put their lives on hold to travel to New York and Washington to assist with the recovery and cleanup. We should be proud that officials had to tell us not to come because so many were jumping to action to offer their help.

And while we are it, we should also pause to think today about the thousands of people who are living with the scars of Sept. 11 -- and the thousands of military personnel who have served, are serving or who have given their lives or had them changed forever as we responded to the promise that we would avenge the deaths on this day 10 years ago.

America is often accused of arrogance and blinders when it comes to the plight of the rest of the world. We are called selfish, ignorant and greedy.

That is not the America we saw on Sept. 11, 2001, and it is not the America we have today.

This is a proud nation that has answered the calls of millions who needed us -- with everything from disaster relief to military support. We have fought the fights that needed fighting and championed those who sought freedom.

This is a country of courage, faith and honor -- and that is what we all remembered on Sept. 11, 2001, and what we have since, sometimes, forgotten.

Our job is to remember how we felt that day and what we lost as a nation and as a people.

We promised to never forget -- and we must not.

We must remember who we are and why we are fighting. And we must stand tall again as we review again what it means to be an American.

We are duty-bound to honor this commitment -- in the names of the nearly 3,000 people who died that day and the thousands who have died since.

That is our charge. That is our mission.

And it is one we should never shirk.

Published in Editorials on September 11, 2011 12:09 AM