11 September 2018

Note From Norm: Bringing America Together Again

Where were you on 9/11 when America was attacked?

I’ve been asked that question many times since that fateful day in which nearly 3,000 Americans died at the hands of terrorists.

I recall the same being asked of me the day John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were gunned down by assassins.

Where was I on those sad and anxious days?

Every American, I imagine, can recall where they were, what they were doing and how they felt in the minutes, hours and days after each of these horrible events in American history.

It may be an American phenomenon that requires and allows us to recall in vivid detail these events and how they impacted us, our country and the world we live in.

Yet, where we were on those days doesn’t seem nearly as important as where we are today, long after these events have been seared into our memories.

Much was written after 9/11 about how we, as Americans, put aside our differences to come together as one nation to heal and to fight back against those who sought our destruction.

In those heart wrenching days where we could not know when, where or if new attacks would come from inside our nation, we found a unified voice and purpose.

Their attacks against our country weren’t simply intended to kill innocents or to destabilize our economy.

We knew that terrorists hated America and our ideals.

But, as the terrorists, and the world, soon learned: American buildings might fall, but American values and ideals could never be destroyed.

America rallied around our President.  We rallied the world around our mission and cause to fight, and win, a Global War on Terror.

Patriotism burst from our collective American chest and the world saw the fury of free people determined to protect and preserve their liberty and their way of life.

This was America in the days, weeks and months after the attacks of 9/11 seventeen years ago.

Where is America today?

Are we capable of coming together for a great national purpose without the existential threat of an attack against our Homeland?

Can America find a galvanizing idea, moment or movement that can bridge the divide in America that finds us farther and farther apart from one another.

We are not without the means to do so, nor do we lack the need to do so.

I believe far too many Americans look for others to lead the way forward.

We expect that the solution to the challenges before us will be found in Washington, D.C. or in our State Capitols or City Hall.

But, what can bring America together isn’t a law, or a decree or an ordinance.

What brings America together is a common belief that our collective purpose is best achieved by standing with one another rather than against each other.

That we are one Nation – under God – indivisible – with liberty – and justice – for all.

This was where we stood on 9/11.

And, on November 22nd, 1963.

On April 4th, 1968.

And, where we stood on June 5th, 1968.

On each of these dates America had no equal in the world when it came for standing up for the ideals of freedom and liberty and justice for all.

We weren’t a perfect America on those days.

But we were a nation in which each of us, individually, knew we were better if all of us, together, could find a way to work together to get things done.

As we recall where we were on 9/11, I hope each of us can also ask where we are today, seventeen years after that tragic day.

The political divide is toxic; the urban rural divide is broadening, American unity seems to be slipping from our grasp. Yet the threat of terrorism has not abated. American troops are still engaged in battling the perpetrators of 9/11 and their progenitors.

In times of crisis Americans have always found the capacity to come together. In these, most challenging of times, absent a signature moment of crisis, could it be that we can commit to standing together, side-by-side, focused on reminding ourselves, and the world, that whatever divides us is nowhere near as powerful as that which brought us together?

If we find that to be true is it possible to believe that next year, 18 years after 9/11, we can ask ourselves, “Where were you on 9/11 in 2018 when America came together, again?”