Harriet Freiberger: Sept. 11 unites us as Americans
September 9, 2017
On this day we Americans can catch a glimpse of ourselves.
Sept. 11: a word and a number bring those who remember to a screeching stop. Thousands still feel the blunt force that left holes in their families. The rest of us step back from remembered impact. Somehow, we reach through the jumble of awakened emotions, the indelible imprint of smoke and ashes, to find the tiny spark of brightness that we know is there. This moment in time connects us all.
I think of myself, living on a hillside high in the Rocky Mountains, a dot in the landscape that prairie-dwellers see when they look upward to snow-capped peaks. What happens when the viewpoint enlarges? The world around us becomes part of who we are.
When 19 men in four airplanes determined their own law and disregarded ours, they brought death and destruction beyond our ability to tabulate. But, in the doing of their horror, they may have exposed us to ourselves — a fractious population defined within development of an idea that bears the name "America."
Sept. 11, a word and a number, can return us to our role of fulfilling the promise of that idea's future, clarifying the glimmer that edges into the darkness of today's contentious and narrow-minded bickering. Renewed optimism could follow everyone's realistic questioning: Am I like those men, pursuing my own idea of what is "good for all," while depriving others, who think differently, the right to their own pursuits?
]There is nothing simple about the answer, but the possibility of a workable solution began taking shape when a new nation issued its Declaration of Independence on that now famous Fourth of July, 1776. Then, after a Revolutionary War and 12 years, 39 delegates signed their names to the document that would become the Constitution of the United States of America.
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Sept. 17, 1788: same word, different numbers. Another moment in time marked human progress toward functioning self-government that carries out the will of the majority, while, at the same time, upholding disagreement. Under provisions of that Constitution, government strengthens the differences that identify individuals, while, at the same time, uniting them under its military protection and increasing enjoyment of shared accomplishment. Throughout two and a half centuries, we Americans have back and forthed in our ability to withstand discord among ourselves, even fighting a civil war that pitted brother against brother to validate in blood the meaning of "freedom for all."
Can such a thing exist? Actually, though it has not occurred to most, we experience proof of just such a working relationship in a most volatile situation every day. From east, west, north and south, we charge ahead in massive hulks of steel and aluminum, most of us driving in the agreed-upon manner. Technology even promises future law-abiding driverless vehicles. But we, the people, can never effect an absence of what we perceive as undue social and political restraints until each of us understands and accepts the accompanying obligation.
Perhaps Sept. 11 reveals what "Trekkies" might call a time warp, in which we can view our tiny dot on the side of a hill with a wider perspective. The men who, 16 years ago, penetrated our borders with unadulterated violence have bequeathed an opportunity to answer the larger question we too often refuse to acknowledge. Are we a nation that lives under the auspices of the law, or does each of us resort to protection of our own personal roadway?
Looking up from our grass roots we can discover ourselves. Time unites us as humans. Sept. 11 unites us as Americans.
A 9-11 remembrance is set for 5:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 11, at Yampa River Botanic Park. Harriet Freiberger has lived in the Elk River valley since 1982.