On the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9-11, the little towns on either side of Murder Creek came together for a memorial service. It was organized by the most recent Leadership class, which had erected a monument in a corner of the city park. Those in attendance mourned the loss that each community had suffered, remembered and prayed for all the families who had been touched by the attacks, and celebrated that they had the freedom to hold a ceremony like the day’s because of the nation in which we live.
Brewton and East Brewton, located in Alabama, are not unlike many other communities — separated only by a small stream of water that often times seemed as wide as an ocean. On this day, though, they remembered together. The city of Brewton had lost a young soldier at the Pentagon. East Brewton mourned the loss of a son-in-law who had been trapped beneath the collapsed rubble from one of the World Trade Center towers as his fire company made its heroic rescue attempts. In those losses the two communities were bound in much the same way the rest of our nation was. We saw it on the steps of the Capitol, where party differences were set aside; in the churches, where denominations no longer mattered; and in neighborhoods, where so many people realized how much they had been taking for granted.
It’s now six years and a day later, and how much has changed? Quite a bit and not much of it for the better. The Pentagon has been repaired and was reopened with a ceremony honoring the men and women who had been killed there. Work is under way on four new towers being built at Ground Zero, the former site of the World Trade Center. It would seem that those are reasons for celebrating.
Rather than furthering the spirit of unity on Capitol Hill, though, many lawmakers will instead posture for the cameras in full campaign mode as they question Gen. David Petraeus about the “Surge.” Battles over religious expression in the classroom and workplace have been taken to the courtroom under a barrage of contentious argument. Churches fight very public battles over issues like women in the pulpit and gays in the congregation. It almost seems like we are directing more anger toward each other than at the terrorists we claim to be at war against.
Our Armed Forces are engaged with an enemy that conducts itself differently from what this country’s military has encountered in the past. There are also civilian contractors working in the war zones, many in support of the military, who find themselves in harm’s way. It is hard to find anyone who does not offer their support to those men and women, through their prayers and gifts as well as in other ways. But there is no more divisive issue currently facing this nation than the “War on Terror” and the politicians and political pundits will not let us forget it.
One comment I heard in the days immediately following the attacks six years ago really hit home. I wrote about it in my column published in The Brewton Standard on the Sunday after 9-11. “The numbers of prayers being offered, the number of heroic acts being performed and the amount of giving that is going on immediately following the attacks is far greater than what was there the day before. That’s a good thing and a trend we need to continue to develop as time moves on.”
Those are still good things, but has the trend we set in the days and weeks following the attacks six years ago really continued?
Bill Crist is associate publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Wednesday. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.