On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, 19 Islamic extremists boarded four separate commercial planes along with 246 other unsuspecting passengers. Midair, a group of al-Qaeda affiliated extremists then hijacked the planes — flying them into the two largest World Trade Center towers as well as the Pentagon and crashing one into a field in Pennsylvania.
Yesterday, our country commemorated the 17th anniversary of 9/11, the deadliest terrorist attack in our country’s history. The infamous attack, which took the lives of 2,977 Americans, is ingrained in our memories. The images of the Twin Towers collapsing, bodies falling from the sky and the resulting nationwide panic are still vivid to millions. The shock, grief and subsequent anger are still felt today. Since that terrible morning on 9/11, much has changed. America has been engaged in a 17-year-long war in the Middle East, domestic security has been exponentially increased and most of our view of what it means to be an American has evolved. The impact of 9/11 on America, the world and human history cannot be understated; it is without question one of the darkest days America has had or will ever experience. Families were forever broken, an entire nation mourned and a war that has lasted longer than a decade began.
However, despite the day’s horrors, America’s response to 9/11 will go down in history as one of our country’s greatest, most defining moments. In the midst of unspeakable tragedy and despair, Americans unified nationwide. We put aside our differences, politics and opinions, and we rallied around Americans in need. Firefighters bravely charged towards the crumbling towers without hesitation, volunteers donated record-setting amounts of blood and New York citizens helped in whatever ways they could. The entire country came together as one. It was the type of unwavering, unapologetic national unity and resolve that is only seen during the most pivotal moments of American history. American soldiers storming the beaches of Normandy, Neil Armstrong becoming the first man to step on the moon, the assassination of President Kennedy and the fall of the Berlin Wall are just a few examples of when America has demonstrated its national spirit which differentiates it from the rest of the world’s nations.
On each anniversary of 9/11, some rightfully pay tribute to our fellow countrymen who lost their lives that morning and acknowledge the often steep price of freedom. Yet the anniversary of 9/11 should also serve as a powerful reminder that in the midst of our disagreements, we are one country with a common purpose. We all strive for a better, more prosperous country, even if we disagree on how we should get there. In the early morning following the 2016 presidential election, President Obama famously said, “We have to remember that we’re actually all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage. We’re not Democrats first; we’re not Republicans first. We’re Americans. We’re patriots first. We all want what’s best for this country.” History will remember the terror that took place on 9/11, but it will also remember the willpower and solidarity of the American people. This anniversary of 9/11 should remind us of our common bonds and the unmatched potential of America when its people are unified.
Wright Ricketts is a senior banking and finance and managerial finance double major from Memphis.