For Americans who lived through 9/11, the events that unfolded 17 years ago yesterday in New York City, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon may seem as raw and fresh as yesterday. It's hard to fathom that today's children and young adults in their early 20s have no memory of these pivotal events.
But educators admit that with each passing year, they face new challenges on conveying this critical part of history to their students. How do they keep this two—pronged story of tragedy and heroism alive in the American psyche? What lessons should young people take from this terrorist attack that took down two of America's tallest buildings, and killed nearly 3,000 people?
9/11 had a lasting affect on this country. The attacks stripped away the confidence Americans had — a can—do attitude recognized across the world since time out of mind. It made us fearful of one another, and especially of "foreigners." Many Americans are convinced that those outside of our borders want in to do us harm. They can't conceive of the ages—old notion that America, as it has always been, is still viewed as the land of opportunity — a place people can bring their families in pursuit of better lives.
Sadly, many Americans now support policies to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, to ban visitors from predominantly Muslim countries, and to strip aid and trade deals from allies that won't bend to U.S. will. All these policies are based on fear, instead of the free—market concepts America used to embrace — ideas that have kept this country prosperous and have made products once considered luxuries available to the masses.
Tuesday, on the anniversary of that fateful day, Americans paid tribute to the innocents who died in the carnage, as well as the heroes who rushed into the fray and willingly sacrificed their own lives to save others. We also saw President Donald Trump turn solemn tributes into a platform for himself, his achievements and his persecution, as well as claiming falsely that he's seeing "more documentation showing collusion between the FBI & DOJ, the Hillary campaign, foreign spies & Russians, incredible."
But Trump's self—serving comments are just a symptom of the contagion that infected Americans in the 9/11. His behavior, too, is borne out of fear, and some of it justified. Trump should lead the country through and past this somber occasion as others, just as Rudy Giuliani did as mayor of New York. But if he can't, we must lead ourselves and take the lessons of 9/11 to heart.
Better security was necessary after 9/11. But Americans — from Tahlequah on up to the Beltway — need to work to regain the confidence, courage and trust we had earlier, and restore ourselves to our position as shining beacon of the free world: open and embracing, willing to serve as well as lead. The future depends on it.