September 11, 2001.
We were a different country then: wounded, but undivided; scarred, but undeterred; enraged, but not at one another. The America that rallied and unified in the wake of the terror attacks seems as vanished now as the Towers themselves.
We were a nation of neighbors, as though the dust thrust up from a burning New York City had cleared to reveal an even greater Republic. We huddled together under the smoke blowing up from the charnel pit, then reached to lift one another to higher ground. We bolstered one another with whatever words we could find, in the interminable spaces after our dead had fallen silent, after the soot in the emptied streets had muted even our own footfalls.
We rose up as one to retaliate — and struck out across the world with a single fist. We were more than a superpower, more than an aggrieved people. We were these United States.
I want to believe that we can be that country — those people — again.
That is why today, fully two decades later, I will picture who we were. And I will tell myself, never forget.