9/11 anniversary: What this millennial never wants America to forget

I still vividly remember Sept. 11, 2001, when my 5th grade teacher in a suburb of Albany, New York, stopped class and told us a about the horrific mass murder of our fellow New Yorkers a few counties to the south. 

On that day 16 years ago, 19 monsters who despised the noble ideals of freedom and equality that America stands for took the lives of almost 3,000 of our fellow countrymen in New York City, at the Pentagon and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The terrible events of 9/11 are starting to fade in memory and out of public discourse. Now an entire generation too young to remember the day is starting to become active in civic affairs.

For millennials such as me, the day was the beginning of our introduction to world affairs. Its aftereffects have defined many portions of our lives since.

On this 16th anniversary of 9/11, we should remember that to our external enemies, we are all fundamentally the same – free human beings with a love of God and liberty, united by the Constitution and draped in America’s proud history.

I still remember watching on television as President George W. Bush stood among the ruins in Manhattan and warned our attackers that we would strike back. And I remember later when he spoke before Congress about the need to invade Iraq.

I remember the feeling of unity our country felt afterward, as we realized that despite our many differences, we are not as divided as we seem.

I remember seeing how many of my brave classmates in high school signed up to join our armed forces out of patriotic devotion as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq raged on.

I remember seeing pictures and news stories of how, no matter our background or belief, American soldiers united in fighting the enemy that took so many American lives on 9/11. I remember seeing how our civilian population back home stood united in backing our troops and one another.

Now new international security challenges confront us as 9/11 moves to the history books, though it remains fresh in the minds and hearts of everyone who lived through it, particularly those who lost loved ones. Like the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor for an earlier generation, it is a historical marker engraved in the collective consciousness.

Much of the modern world is still defined by the tragedy that happened 16 years ago. We still are fighting in Afghanistan. Iraq remains a battlefield, as we continue to destroy ISIS and its extremist brethren across the world.

Furthermore, I believe there is an important lesson we should still recall from 9/11 – that of unity.

Our country right now is perhaps the most divided it has ever been since the Civil War. A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll described how Americans are polarized across ideological and partisan lines.

The election and administration of President Trump has drawn media attention to this polarization. But surveys and studies have shown that in recent years, even before the 2016 election, Americans have been drifting further and further apart.

Our political discourse is filled each day with opposing sides not only engaging in policy debates but personal attacks and demonization. Rather than seeing those in the other party as decent and sincere people simply holding alternate viewpoints, too many of us now see them as enemies.

However, in all this hostility, the truth is that we are not as different from one another as it seems. While liberals and conservatives have many disagreements in policies and philosophy, we still all support our fundamental constitutional ideals and the belief in our right to purse life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that has defined our nation’s image and path.

On this 16th anniversary of 9/11, we should remember that to our external enemies, we are all fundamentally the same – free human beings with a love of God and liberty, united by the Constitution and draped in America’s proud history.

On this solemn day, it is worth remembering what brings us together. Perhaps someday our country can be as united again as it was on Sept. 11, 2001. 

Erich Reimer is an American entrepreneur and conservative commentator. He holds a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law and a Bachelor’s from the University of Pennsylvania. His website can be found at www.erichreimer.com and he can be reached at erich.reimer@gmail.com.