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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

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How America can be healed by commemorating 9/11


A piece of the World Trade Center stands by the Student Center as a memorial to 9/11. | File photo/ The Cougar

Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, marks the 16th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the United States of America.

This anniversary is the first of its magnitude commemorated under the current presidential administration and many eyes will be on the controversial, and often divisive U.S. President Donald Trump to see if he will rekindle the American spirit of unity that was felt in the wake of the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

In November of 2000, the United States was in a tumultuous spot.

George W. Bush had just won the presidential election against Al Gore, who won the popular vote but lost the electoral college. Even though both of the candidates ran on moderate platforms, the election was contentious. Parallels have since been drawn between the 2016 election and the Bush v. Gore one of 2000.

When the United States was attacked in 2001, people from all walks of life began to identify with their country in profound ways.

This week, as we remember the American citizens who lost their lives to terrorism, we should embark on a journey to once again recognize the qualities that make us all American. We should come together in this time of division.

More than 3,000 people died in the initial attacks. The death toll began to rise as first responders, police officers and firemen manned the scene for days at a time to help rescue survivors. As the years have passed, many of these brave first responders have suffered from their exposure while working in Ground Zero.

Watching New York City’s finest, as well as ordinary citizens, fight to find survivors, come together and support one another after suffering unimaginably, are burned in my mind as what it means to be American. Being an American means sacrifice and inclusivity.

We ask not what their country can do for us, but what we can do for our country, and we do things together because we know that they work out better that way.

Watching that as a child made me really excited to be an American.

No one my age remembers what 9/11 really looked like. I myself only have vague memories of adults, teachers and parents reacting to it. It was clear they were seeing something terrifying; their worlds were being shattered.

How scary it was to see people who held so dearly onto one cohesive American identity awakening to the reality that they were under attack.

It was touching to be, all of us, Americans, who were just trying to hold on to one another and put back the pieces of our nation. It felt holy, like America really was going to be the shining city on a hilltop.

In the times that we have commemorated Sept. 11 since 2001, that feeling has returned to me, and I know that we can overcome the division that has long been spread between us.

There are, within my memory, a few iconic moments where I felt, more acutely than usual, like an American; when I knew that I was united with the people who lived in this country and I felt like I was a part of the future of our nation.

Some people may not put faith in institutions, preferring instead to believe in the good of the people, but as we look upon moments of natural disasters, and terrorist attacks, both foreign and domestic, and we see an outpouring of support from all kinds of Americans who wish to live in a hopeful and free nation, I know that the United States will live long, and that we will heal, because we have done it before.

Assistant opinion editor Mia Valdez is a creative writing junior. She can be reached at [email protected]

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