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18 years later, are we united?

| Wednesday, September 11, 2019

“Time is passing. Yet, for the United States of America, there will be no forgetting September the 11th. We will remember every rescuer who died in honor. We will remember every family that lives in grief. We will remember the fire and ash, the last phone calls, the funerals of the children.” — Former President George W. Bush

Eighteen years later, we remember. Although the clock may tick, the events of 9/11 remain engrained in America’s mind. The anguish and peril of the victims, the anxiety of their loved ones and the utter shock of the American populace showcase the tremendous sorrow in mourning this tragedy. While the world continues to spin today, America is frozen in remembrance.

But our freezing is not petrifying or unwanted. In my last column, I discussed the necessity for a moment of reflection and prayer following a national tragedy. To heal, our nation must come together to provide hope for a better future. But 9/11 is more than a national tragedy. The attacks were an unpredictable assault on the American way of life. It took innocent lives for a despicable, abhorrent and unachievable cause. Such an event requires a moment of reflection to mourn the lives lost.

I have no sympathy for the perpetrators of sympathizers of the attacks. Rather, my soul is filled with an utter despise and hatred for these terrorists. Those who commit violence upon the innocent solely to strike fear only deserve punishment. My heart grieves for the victims. It mourns for their families. It laments for the first responders. But my heart also weeps for America and her citizens. After the events of 9/11, it was as if all walls were broken and replaced with bridges. Every American realized that despite their differences and disagreements, an assault on America affects everyone in the nation. Leonard Pitts Jr., columnist at the Miami Herald, embodied this message in his piece after the horrific events. He writes, “When roused, we are righteous in our outrage, terrible in our force. When provoked by this level of barbarism, we will bear any suffering, pay any cost, go to any length, in the pursuit of justice.”

That sense of unity, camaraderie and cohesion between Americans after 9/11 recognizes not only the severity of the attacks, but the determination of America to fight back. It is the nation’s commitment to protect its freedom and crush those who threaten it. It is a unique feeling, and although it is trapped within vicious events, provides warmth in the cold, bitter night.

But have we remained united? Are we still committed to our values? One look at the news or social media would say no. It would suggest there is no hope in an America where anyone who disagrees is a bigot, those who question American traditions are anti-American and speech is silenced either through violence or fear of public shaming simply for disagreeing. Violent protests, vicious social media posts and blocking those who disagree with you is not productive. A culture of name-calling only encourages greater division. Rather, we must embrace civility and respect in our nation’s discourse. Fight the ideas, not individuals. Expose hatred through logic and reasoning, burning it in the light. Do not allow it to fester as you push it into darkness. Civility must come first.

I refuse to believe in an America where discourse is dead and the marketplace of ideas is closed. Instead, I believe in an America that endorses freedom and is committed to justice for all. It is an America where despite disagreement, individuals maintain healthy relations with their neighbors. When sensitive situations arise, there is empathy. I envision a nation where, despite its problems, members are committed to respecting each other and using discourse to reach the best solution.

That America is only achievable through unity. It is only possible by going beyond labels and treating people as people. It is attainable through a commitment to civil dialogue and a recognition that while one may disagree with you, we share a common goal: improving the wellbeing of all people. While there are extremists, they are few compared to the average, sensible American.

I call on every American to be that citizen, the one who promotes civility. That is how we honor the memories of those we lost on September 11th, 2001 — by showing our enemies that despite their efforts, America’s character remains intact. Through this, America remains the beacon of freedom and hope across the world.

Tonight, I pray for the victims, their families, first responders and soldiers who defend our freedom. But I also pray for America, that as we traverse through the darkness, we reach the bright hope at the end of the tunnel.

“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no harm, for You are with me.” (Psalm 23:4)

Blake Ziegler is a freshman at Notre Dame from New Orleans, Louisiana, with double majors in political science and philosophy. He hopes his writing encourages others to take an interest in politics and government. For inquiries, he can be reached at [email protected] or @NewsWithZig on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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