This September 11 finds the nation in transition, between the optimistic outlook inherent in the American character and the mourning that was engraved in everyone who lived through those events. One year ago, we sought vengeance and victory. While final victory in the war on terror is perhaps decades away, we have gained early important successes in the battles of Afghanistan and Iraq, thanks to the valor of the armed forces and the vigor of the American spirit. The Taliban is no longer destroying statues in Afghanistan; Saddam is no longer erecting images of self-adulation in Iraq. Thousands of al Qaeda fighters have been killed or captured, as have three-quarters of Iraq’s former leaders. Children’s kites are flying in Kandahar; democratic processes are beginning in Baghdad.
That war broke on a clear blue sky day, of which most of us still have vivid memories. The sudden explosions. The shocking silence of the stopped traffic in downtown Washington, broken only by the shriek of sirens headed toward the Pentagon. The television coverage that went on for days without pause or commercial break, unspeakable image following unspeakable image. The spirit that rose that day must not be forgotten. We remember Barbara Olson’s persistent phone calls from American Airlines Flight 77 and Todd Beamer’s hurried prayer before his rush down the aisle of Flight 93.
That spirit sustained Americans in the terrible days that followed. The determination of President Bush in the ruin of the World Trade Center. The unconquerable optimism of Rudolph Giuliani. The spirit of the technicians who worked feverishly to ensure that America’s economic heartbeat — the trading at the New York Stock Exchange — would restart a mere week after it stopped. The spirit of the millions who gathered at candlelight vigils. The spirit of the thousands who put the Pentagon back together in a single year.
That spirit is still vibrant today. It is the spirit that drives former professional football player Pat Tillman and others like him to sacrifice highly paid careers in order to serve in the armed forces. The spirit that leads Americans to give sacrificially to September 11 charities — The Todd Beamer Foundation alone has received $4.5 million. The spirit in the hundreds of thousands of Americans constructing a tower of democracy from the ruin of Saddam’s regime.
We encourage our readers to memorialize the sprit of this day in a manner most fitting for their memories and mourning. Some may want to spend a moment at the graveside of a lost loved one or with a photograph of a lost friend. Others may want to write a check to a September 11 charity or servicemen’s organization, or to shake the hand and pat the back of a policeman or fireman, simply to say thanks for being ready to rise to the call. Still others may feel it best to offer a prayer for the families of those who died on September 11, or for the sons and daughters and husbands and wives currently in danger on freedom’s frontier.
On this solemn anniversary, Americans again move forward towards Lincoln’s new birth of freedom — suffused with the sorrow, but sustained by the spirit that was reawakened two years ago.