9-11: Looking Back Over a Dozen Years

I was honored to be asked to present my thoughts at the 9/11/13 meeting of the Franklin County Democratic Party. These are my comments.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for asking me to share my thoughts with you all tonight as we think back on a dozen years since the tragedies of September 11, 2001.

Novelist Barbara Kingsolver has said that after 9-11, whenever she looks outside, she exhales a prayer of thanks, and inhales a kind of promise. She says, “Freedom of speech, the protection of diversity – these are the most important ingredients of American civil life and of my own survival.”

I agree. 9-11 was launched against our shores by those who hate not us as people, but hate what we stand for – for social justice, for equality and inclusion, for the rights of every resident, and for the ability to be whatever we want to be.

But what those who hijacked the planes and those even more cowardly who orchestrated the events from afar, failed to grasp is that our rights are more than concepts and our freedoms are more than simple actions. They are ingrained into our combined national character in such a way that they cannot be shattered with a bomb. Our commitment to the ideals and ideas that make our country great – our very nationalism and patriotism – are, as Adlai Stevenson described, “not short frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”

Think about what the terrorists tried to do on 9-11 by slaying 2,958 innocent residents of the United States, and then consider

Since September 11, 2001,

- More than 7 million people from countries across the globe have petitioned, studied, and passed the exams necessary to become naturalized citizens of the United States. A significant portion of these new citizens are from countries commonly considered “the Muslim world.”

- More than 3 million women have opened a business.

- 13 States have enacted full marriage equality, and the United States Supreme Court has recognized that equality as binding upon the federal government.

- We have safely, securely, and without violence, conducted 3 elections for United States president, 2,610 for U. S. Representative, 200 for U. S. Senator, and tens of thousands for governors, state representatives, county commissioners, city council members, school board members and other elected officials.

9-11 changed us – yet, it did not defeat us. 

9-11 did not destroy our commitment to ourselves and to one another. 

Terrorists can never do that. 

Only our loss of faith in ourselves, our neighbors, our elected officials, and our government structure can invert this glorious, complicated, messy experiment in democracy and freedom that we all so fervently love.

Only by not taking care of one another, by denying equality and social justice, do we undermine our strength. 

Yet, freedom in our society is not free. Security is not automatic. Freedom and democracy are not without cost.

Voting is the tender by which we pay. It is the way we honor our veterans, first responders, our neighbors – and those we lost on 9-11.

As Americans and as Democrats, we have a moral obligation to honor them, and to continue to fight to ensure that every eligible person casts a vote and that every vote cast is counted. That is how we ensure our United States democracy continues and thrives.

And, now, Mr. Chairman, I’d like to ask that we take a moment of silence to reflect on our own thoughts on 9/11 and all that has happened since. … Thank you.  

Published September 11, 2013