Paul E. Anna: High Points | AspenTimes.com

Paul E. Anna: High Points

Paul E. Anna
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

We all remember where we were and how we heard.

It was eight years ago this morning that we awoke to the news that something very bad was happening in New York City. As the day unfolded and the tragedy grew we all felt a wide range of conflicting emotions.

There was the fear that our way of life was under attack. There was the anger that someone, anyone would do this to us, here on our home soil. There was the overwhelming sadness for the victims and their families. There was the insecurity about what would happen next.

Today, as we look back at that terrible day and the weeks, months and years that have followed, what have to we show in the way of progress as a nation since 9/11/2001?

At the time there was a pent up desire for revenge. That overwhelming rage manifested in a need to make someone pay. The face on the wanted poster was Osama Bin Ladin’s but now, eight years later he eludes us.

Instead we got Saddam Hussein’s scalp in retribution. The scalp of a man who was clearly evil but who, ultimately, had nothing to do with 9/11.

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The cost for making Hussein pay is ongoing but is currently more than 4,330 American lives, more than the number that died that tragic day in the attacks. The cost in dollars, projected to be north of a trillion dollars by years end, has exceeded what was spent in Vietnam and has decimated our economy.

The cost to our standing as a nation, both at home and abroad, has also been steep as America is no longer perceived to be the bright, shining, light that it once was.

For most of us life has gone on in the ensuing eight years. We have had no further domestic terrorist attacks, and other than a gnawing sadness for the victims and our lost innocence, and being forced remove our shoes at the airport, little has changed for the average American. For that I guess we should be thankful.

Yet, as I remember that awful day, I also remember that by the time night fell there was a feeling of unity our nation. The people of the world seemed to rally along with us as they too felt our pain. There was a belief that, not only would we survive this, but that bonds forged in tragedy just might work to bring forth something good.

Something powerful was awakened.

Now that power seems stilled. We have squandered whatever good that bloomed that September by waging a fruitless war, bickering internally and losing focus.

The victims who died that day were not martyrs for a cause, they were simply people in the wrong place at the wrong time. But the biggest honor we could offer them would be to put aside our differences and to recapture some of the solidarity that we had the night of September 11.

To use the memory of that terrible day as a way to coalesce and get this nation back on the path to being a bright and shining light that has the respect and admiration of the rest of the world.

Eight years on that may be little more than a nice sentiment. But on the night of September 11, 2001 it was real.

And nothing could have been more comforting.