Editor’s note: Below is our editorial from Sept. 11, 2002 — exactly one year after the unprecedented and unforgettable terrorist attacks on this country. We think it’s worth another read today, on the 16th anniversary of that tragedy.
Moments of great personal and national tragedy are as etched in our hearts and minds as the presidential likenesses found at Mount Rushmore. Sept. 11, 2001 is past, but its legacy today continues to be acutely felt both domestically and internationally.
This day, one year ago, darkened the tone of political rhetoric and set the stage for the unfolding of a different way of living — a redefining of national security and a reassessment of how the rest of the world looks both to and at us.
As the foundations of the World Trade Center were assaulted from the impact above, something fundamental about what it means to be an American shook and resonated within all pillars of our democratic fortress. Our homeland had been assaulted in a way few would have thought possible.
This day, one year ago, changed the focus of a presidential administration. Pressing national agendas before this moment suddenly yielded to the immediate mandate of dealing with an insidious enemy that caught us by surprise. Suddenly, the relative sense of immunity from attack from sea to shining sea faded into the sunset of memory.
On this day, one year ago, the nation became vulnerable, standing in amazement at the devastation of buildings, planes and, especially, the thousands of lives abruptly ended. A sense of chaos permeated the air as a faceless, unknown enemy brought destruction upon icons of American financial, military and political strength.
Wall Street’s tickertapes ceased their endless reporting of the country’s economic lifeblood for a protracted period of time. The Pentagon’s armor was dented. Planes and passengers were consumed in an unspeakable cloud of fire.
Just 365 days ago, Americans witnessed acts of heroism and unflagging patriotism. How easily we can recall those brave and selfless firefighters, police personnel and airplane passengers who instantly came forth in an effort to save as many lives as possible. Those men and women who died in the cause of trying to save the lives of others brought tears to eyes and a swelling of American pride. The deaths of thousands of innocent civilians will be enshrined in the hearts of their families, friends and co-workers — sacrificial lambs at an altar of evil.
The solemnity of last year’s events will be echoed in a chorus of national unity against a common enemy whose craft is performed in the shadows of terror.
The light of truth and patriotism must shine and prevail over such forces. It is our nature, as Americans, to be beacons of democracy.
The time is now, not one year ago. The task is at hand to let all that is good about this country rise up from ground zero and touch the sky. Let us remember. Let us be one.