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Remembering America's Heroes

As we search for perspective on the September 11 attack, we pay tribute to America's heroes.
Gordon Mott
From the Print Edition:
Don Johnson, Mar/Apr 02

(continued from page 1)


While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.

God bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.

--Irving Berlin


I don't believe there is an American alive today who hears that song in the same way as he or she did before September 11. Some may argue that they were always fervent patriots, but part of the privilege of living in the land of the free was that you could be complacent; you could take those privileges and freedom for granted. But even those lifelong, fervent patriots can't help but hear the words differently, too. All our reactions are getting back in touch with not only what America is but we want it to be.

If there are two key lessons from 9/11, they are: we must remember, and we must never forget. That's why in this issue, coming six months after the tragedy, we're still focusing on the heroic efforts of men and women who put their lives at risk every day to make us safer. And that's why we're still asking you to think about the reasons you love your country, and why it's important to remain focused on what it is that has made America great, and what will continue to keep it great for generations to come. If I had any doubts about whether it was appropriate to have a story on these heroes six months after the fact, it was answered on that January day near Ground Zero. The lines of people. The tears. The pain in the faces of people on the viewing platform.

The crowds coming to Ground Zero, the millions of dollars given to charity in the months following the attacks, the search for ways to help, have given meaning to one of the phrases that have become a virtual motto of post-9/11 America, "United We Stand." Rarely in our history has the nation come together as solidly and firmly as it did in the weeks and months following the attacks. Pearl Harbor and President John F. Kennedy's assassination come to mind. "United We Stand" has been transformed into a statement of determination, one that our enemies underestimated. They thought we had grown weak, that our resolve to confront dangers and threats was so diminished that we would falter in the face of them. They were wrong. There may have never been another time when President Kennedy's words in his 1961 inaugural speech -- "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country" -- rang so true and had so many people stepping forward to offer their assistance.

It's become popular to say, "Nothing is the same. Our world has changed." There is some truth in that statement, too. Up to now, however, one of the realities of human existence has been that we tend to forget, to push aside the things that we don't like to remember. There is a natural human tendency to look forward. Yet we have been forcefully reminded of the things that make our country great, and that make us proud to be Americans. We cannot, we must not, forget those truths.

By not forgetting, we are building that place where we will finally come to terms with the tragedy, a psychological viewing platform from where we can see the truth. It's a place we all need to discover, a place with enough distance to deal with the feelings and the emotions that were triggered by the attacks, at the same time close enough to always be reminded of what happened. In finding that place, we will begin to heal, and restore the sense of peace and balance that is so important to living. And, as we stand proudly there, we will always be a bit prouder when we say, "I am an American."

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