The Times Editorial Board

 

It has been 18 years since that dreadful day on Sept. 11, 2001, when this country was viciously attacked by terrorists. We can never forget. 

There’s plenty to remember that day, as we all watched in horror as American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 plunged into the World Trade Center. Nearly two hours after the first plane went into the side of the skyscraper, the towers began their horrific collapse that sent thousands running to escape the toxic dust and debris that engulfed lower Manhattan. 

We also remember the scene at the Pentagon, where military personnel scrambled to help save the lives of those trapped when American Airlines Flight 77 struck the side of the world’s largest office building. There was also the valiant moment in the skies over Pennsylvania when the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 tried to take back the plane from the four hijackers. 

By the end of that day, nearly 3,000 people were dead and more than 6,000 injured. 

Today, the United States is still fighting a war in Afghanistan, actively engaged in Iraq and still heavily involved in the Middle East in order to curb terror from Islamic fundamentalists. 

In the days that followed those attacks, the nation came together in support of President George W. Bush. The following weeks saw swift U.S. military action against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. There also were moments of darkness during this period when America relied on torture, humilation and deprivation to extract intelligence from detainees. 

America’s greatness rests in its unity and its ability to question itself on the role of justice and what defines being American. We still believe those values are self evident, that American exceptionalism was on full display in the days after 9-11, but that exceptionalism is also found in the ability to question one’s motivations and actions and look for a better way. 

Since 9-11, those first responders in Manhattan — many of them New York firefighters — have had to fight hard to obtain long-term care after it has become clear that they were working in a highly toxic environment in the debris mound caused by the collapse of the World Trade Center and other buildings nearby. They should have never had to fight at all. 

Instead, many of these men and women had to wait and wait until Congress finally took action this year to ensure they were cared for. That’s a shameful chapter in America’s post-9-11 history, but at least we can now say they will be cared for. 

Congress — no matter your political affiliation — was wrong to deny these benefits to these American heroes. 

In the end, we should always remember 9-11, not only to cherish what was lost, but to remember a higher calling — of sacrifice, service and unity. We were all Americans that day — not red or blue — and wouldn’t it be nice to see that return?

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