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Caldwell: Have we forgotten the lessons of 9/11?

Most of us said Sept. 11, 2001, would be etched into our memories forever.

We swore we would remember where we were when we got the news or what we were doing when we watched in horrified silence as the World Trade Center towers fell. We heard over and over how this event changed the world and would never be forgotten.

Now, 18 years later, I have to wonder: Have we mostly forgotten 9/11?

Without question, the terrorist hijackings of four airplanes and the subsequent attacks mark one of the most tragic days in our nation’s history, taking the lives of 2,977 Americans and impacting so many families.

The ramifications of the attack are still felt in security at airports and events and maybe the lingering impact it had our economy. However, when it comes to our daily lives as Americans and the fabric of our country’s culture, I’m not sure the impact is quite as profound as we like to proclaim.

And that is disappointing.

In the days immediately following 9/11, our nation was more united than it had been in decades.

Patriotism surged. Pride in our country and love for our neighbors reached perhaps the greatest levels since World War II. Support for law enforcement, firefighters and others was at all-time highs. President George W. Bush had a 90 percent approval rating and our government was no longer made up of representatives from blue states or red states; we were simply led by Americans.

Much of that faded significantly.

Bush left office with an approval rating in the teens. Partisanship in Washington, D.C. has reached ridiculous levels, causing the federal government to nearly grind to a halt multiple times in recent years with more battles looming on the horizon.

Patriotism seems to mostly pop up around the holidays where people get time off work. Although still strong here locally, the support for police officers, firefighters and other emergency responders has diminished greatly, as evidenced by some of the strife across the country in recent years and the struggles these departments have faced to remain adequately funded.

Some of this is simply human nature. The old adage that “time heals all wounds” holds true in many cases, even when we would prefer it did not.

On the anniversary next week, I’m challenging myself — and I hope others do the same — to really think about what the 9/11 attacks meant and recapture some of that pride felt afterwards.

We said we would never forget this important moment in our great nation’s history, but it is important we truly remember it as well.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Winchester Sun and Winchester Living magazine. He can be reached at (859) 759-0095 or by email at mike.caldwell@winchestersun.com.