How should we remember September 11, 2001'

The events of that morning and the days that followed are surely etched into the memories of all of us. It is one of those occasions that will always bring forth "I remember where I was when I heard" stories.

The experiences and responses of the military community are more varied than in the civilian population. We come from every part of the nation, from every sort of background. For New Yorkers or those who have worked in the Pentagon, the attacks of Sept. 11 might have been deeply personal experiences.

Even for others, it was still an emotional time. Our nation had been attacked. What could bring out a more visceral response from those sworn to defend the United States from all enemies'

We will each remember our individual responses. But how should we remember that day as a nation'

Almost 3,000 innocent victims died on 9/11. That figure alone is enough to ensure a lasting sense of mourning. But nine years have passed; the immediacy of those deaths has passed. Except for those who lost family members or friends, the sense of tragedy has to fade. More members of the Armed Forces have died since 9/11 than all of those killed when those four jets crashed into their targets and that field in Pennsylvania.

The loss of Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors strikes much closer to home for most of us. We know them as individuals. We attend the memorial ceremonies; we see the families and friends left behind; we listen to stories about who they were - fathers and brothers and sisters and daughters and friends, and it fills us up - at least it does me. There is only so much grief I can hold.

So, how should we remember 9/11'

Saturday, as they have for the last eight years, members of our emergency services organizations - firefighters and police - raised the Stars and Stripes in a ceremony honoring the first responders who died trying to save others. I hope this is a tradition that continues. It is a symbol of the dedication and sacrifice that these men and women have always given to us. Surely, that will always deserve to be marked with ceremony.

There were memorials at Ground Zero in New York; there was one at the new memorial at the Pentagon. Visitors will always pause and read the names with a sense of sadness and loss. But the emotion we all felt nine years ago will fade.

Some things, though, need to be remembered. I don't mean the outrage. I don't mean the anger. I don't mean the grief or sadness at the lives lost.

There actually were positives about that time in our nation. We need to remember those.

Americans all love their country, but there are times you wouldn't know it by the way we act toward one another. We bicker, we fight, we seem always to be pointing fingers and assessing blame for some shortcoming. But for a few weeks after the attacks, it was different.

For a little while we put aside our differences and were united. First, it was in the effort to bring help to the scenes of the attacks. Then it was in a universal commitment to see that nothing like this could happen again. We, as a nation, had a sense of purpose in a way we hadn't for decades. I wish that, at least once a year, we could remember that sense of unity.

We should use Sept. 11 as a reminder that for all the diversity of backgrounds and opinions that make up our people, there really are some basic values that bind us together. If we can focus a little more on those things that make us one, rather than on the disagreements that push us apart, I think we will have a better, stronger military and nation.

And that is how I think we should remember 9/11.

David W. Kuhns Sr. is editor of Joint Base Lewis-McChord's weekly newspaper, the Northwest Guardian.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16