A chance for remembrance and reflection

by Chris Pocock

There is not a single American older than 16 who doesn’t remember the day four airplanes plunged into the World Trade Center buildings, the Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania. What began as any other morning turned into a surreal nightmare. In a heartbeat, more than 2,000 lives were extinguished. Our nation’s unshakeable sense of security had been cracked, and grief and anger took firm control of our country’s national psyche.

But from great calamity came identity. Despondency ruled the few hours following the attack, but it was soon replaced by far greater things: A true and clear sense of purpose, a need to rebuild, a resilient and unstoppable patriotism and a search for justice. In a sense, in going through this tragedy together as a country, we regained a national pride and relearned what it meant to be American. For a brief time, everything inconsequential was forgotten. There was only one focus, one side and one purpose — to rebuild what was lost.

I was 11 years old when the towers fell. Like a lot of you reading this, I was thousands of miles from Ground Zero. Even so, the events that enfolded that morning hit me like a stone mallet. Images of smoking towers filled every television screen at my middle school. Donation boxes lined counters at every restaurant, café and urban hangout. Signs inscribed with phrases such as “Never Forget” hung on every store window. Police and firefighters were hailed as heroes.

Unfortunately, that period of time free of incessant politicking was entirely too brief. As teams of firemen dug through rubble and put their lives at risk in the interest of saving one more soul, politicians drafted 2,000-page bills. And truly, a sick sense of irony followed: For the sake of achieving more freedom, we must give up our rights. For the sake of being patriotic, we must allow the government’s unbridled power to hold prisoners in detention for unrestricted amounts of time, and to torture them if necessary.

It didn’t take long to understand the consequences of this legislative folly. Where there was great power, there was no responsibility. Retribution became the name of the game, and still is. The legacies of The USA Patriot Act live on 10 years later, despite the campaign promises of our current president to curb the act.

Other bills were harder to pass into law. It’s taken 10 years for a bill providing health care to 9/11 first respondents to pass, covering many diseases except, of course, cases in which those responders develop cancer. God bless our legislators, trying to do anything to save a few bucks. Maybe they too wouldn’t mind shaving off a few dollars from their benefits.

I’d like to see a return to the America we saw briefly after the 9/11 attacks: The unstoppable national pride and collaboration to do anything possible to make our country greater. That I will never forget. As for 2,000-page bills patriotically ridding Americans of their rights? It might be time to invest in a hardy paper shredder.

— Chris Pocock is a journalism senior.

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