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It's After Sept. 11, and It's Time to Move Forward

My thoughts on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

For a fractured country with a short collective memory span, it’s good that we come together to remember what happened on Sept. 11, 2001. It’s appropriate that we honor those whose selfless sacrifice proved we can rise above our own self-interest in the name of the greater good.

Both the and Lutheran Churches held special memorial services. offered an “Hour of Eucharistic Adoration.” The made the remembrance part of each of their Sunday services and the presented a performance of , a musical piece composed by Scott Stevenson.

That’s the way it should be.

Though I might be a little biased, I thought the Sunday Beacon News Storyteller piece in which local officials offered their thoughts and memories of the day was exceptional. And it was something Aurora Police Chief Greg Thomas said that really rang true.

“I continue to think about and pray for our armed service men and women. And yet, life goes on … ,” he said, “Though we should never forget so we never repeat, we cannot be so immersed in the tragedy not to allow us to get the best out of life.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. After a long and necessary decade of mourning, I can’t help but feel it’s time to move forward. It’s time to apply the lessons we’ve learned since that day for two important reasons.

First, I refuse to believe that anyone who made that sacrifice would want to see us stuck in that moment. And second, though it’s a hackneyed phrase, if we don’t integrate that wisdom borne of pain then it’s the terrorists who will carry that day. The best way to honor the memory of those who perished is to become better people for it.

Setting aside any national health-care debate, I find it unconscionable that we're standing by as those brave first-responders slowly die of cancer. Please let our state senators and district representative know the absolute least we can do is cover their medical bills.

It’s time to bring our sons and daughters home. In the name of those who died, we continue to fight two wars that are bankrupting us and fanning the flames that feed the fanatics. It was superior intelligence that put Al Qaeda on the run and led to the demise of Osama bin Laden.

It’s time to admit that our Muslim fellow citizens are not the enemy. The heinous attack on the Twin Towers was intended to be the catalyst for U.S. Muslims to rise up and attack the “decadent west,” but, as Tribune Columnist Steve Chapman wrote in his Sept. 8 column:

“A car bomb in a stadium parking lot, a couple of semi-automatic rifles in a shopping mall, a Molotov cocktail in a crowded bus, a bomb on a railroad track, a runaway pickup on a city sidewalk—there's an endless list of easy pickings.

"There are too many targets to secure them all. It would have been a simple task for a handful of minimally trained volunteers to keep us in a constant state of fear.”

Those “sleeper cells” never materialized. The war on terror has always been waged against extremists and not the religion they’ve co-opted.

If we trade any of our hard-fought freedoms for the illusion of safety by abridging the Constitution, then the terrorists prevail. What they fear even more than our military might are the freedoms upon which this country was founded. If we, through the Patriot Act and absurd airport searches, relinquish those rights, then we’re playing right into their hands.

And finally, it’s time to send the fear-mongers packing. The events of 9/11 rightfully changed our world, but clinging to our fear only keeps us trapped in a vicious cycle.

It’s time to ignore any candidate who shamelessly panders to our baser instincts. It’s time to dismiss those political pundits who, in the names of those who died, use fear to rake in millions of dollars. It’s time to face the future united in the knowledge that we can overcome whatever they throw at us because that resilience will always be our best defense.

“But, Jeff! We’re just Geneva. What can we do?” It’s got to start somewhere. Geneva can be the beacon. It’s up to you. The reason I challenge readers is because I have so much faith in them.

I didn’t write this column over the weekend because that was the time to remember. But now, as the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, has passed, secure in the knowledge we will never forget and always persevere, it’s time to move forward.

Colin C. September 14, 2011 at 12:49 PM
Jeff, I think that this is the best column of yours that I have ever read. You have nailed it, point for point. If I may, I would take it one step further, perhaps it is time to forgive. In his sermon last Sunday at St. Mark's Episcopal Church Fr. Mark Tuskin used Paul's Letter to the Romans to illustrate the redemptive powers of forgiveness. While not referring specifically to 9-11 or terrorism, he addressed all of those times when someone has "trespassed against us". He suggested that in all such instances we consider expressing our regret for whatever we may have done to the other and forgiving them for what they have done to us. He emphasized that this act of forgiveness does not condone either our own actions or those of the other but frees us from hatred and allows us to move on without carrying the burden of anger and resentment. It also allows and encourages the other to regret and forgive in turn. He cited Pope John Paul's forgiveness of the man who shot him in an attempted murder as an example. It's a hard, hard thing to do, to let go of "righteous" anger and hatred but virtually every popular philosophy and religion, including Christianity and Islam, strongly suggest that we try.
Andrea Cladis September 14, 2011 at 02:54 PM
I could not agree more with having to accept the past and move forward through forgiveness. This is certainly not an easy thing to do, but I find it is the only way to find any semblance of peace and unity. I also would like to reiterate what Jeff said about doing our best to care for those first responders who were told by the EPA that the "air was safe" at ground zero. Seriously? It doesn't take a scientist to realize that breathing in all of the toxins and multi-colored smokes from the wreckage was dangerous. Those men and women risked their lives to search for answers and clean up the mess that occured on 9-11. And now it truly is the LEAST government can do to pay for their medical bills and cover cancer treatments.
Rudy September 14, 2011 at 05:34 PM
I have to agree with you on all points but for one. We won't and probably shouldn't ever truly leave the Middle East. We can't wish those problems away or turn our back to them like an ostrich with our head in the sand. We are still in Japan and Germany and Italy and guess what they are some of our greatest allies. Leaving isn't a reasonable answer and when Ole Barack said we were getting out in 16 months I laughed out loud. I knew it wasn't going to happen as there is too much at stake. Why leave if we do well be right back to 2001 again with few allies in the area and then we will have to start the whole thing over again. In my opinion we should have never left Iraq in the 90's it's all part of being an upstanding responsible global citizen. I don’t necessarily like it but it is the cost of being a Powerful Nation you have to help where you can and stay out of the way as much as possible. Rudy O.
CAROL SWINNEY September 15, 2011 at 01:56 AM
I agree it is time to move on. We will always remember, andwe should, but it has been 10 years. WWII only lasted 6 years, and there was an end. This is going to go on forever. It is time to leave and let these countries govern themselves. And, if they all kill each other, well, we won't have to worry about them anymore.

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