Today, as we revisit the horrible and indelible images of a year ago, the pain of the loss is as real now as it was then. Our nation has changed in many ways over the past year. Looking past the deep and abiding wound our country suffered on that day, we should also reflect on the positive things that have taken root in the ashes of ruin.
From Sept. 11, we have a gained a profound appreciation for those who put their lives on the line in the name of civic safety and protection each day. The members of the New York City police and fire departments who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty have given us all a reason to look upon our public servants in a much different light.
In dealing with the tragedy, the American spirit of giving and helping was immediate and far reaching. Whether in New York or Juneau, Alaska, 3,000 miles away, the spirit was the same.
Out of the smoke and ashes of 9/11, the nation directed its focus to its core values; family, freedom, democracy and security. A reinvigorated appreciation for freedom has resulted in the greatest demonstration of patriotism since World War II. War veterans have always felt an unspoken something many of us don't feel when singing the National Anthem or reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Now, we all experience that feeling.
A notable positive contrast between America of World War II and the America of today is a greater acceptance of diversity. German- and Japanese-Americans felt the sting of oppression in their own country during World War II. In the wake of 9/11, we saw very little backlash toward U.S. citizens of Middle Eastern descent.
Our country has undergone remarkable changes in subtle ways, too. The sudden and pointless loss of more than 3,000 lives directly affected as many families but the sense of loss has been felt and shared by all American families.
At the root of patriotism are the strength and love that come from family. In the past year, we have been moved beyond our tendency toward self-absorption to pay closer attention to the living ... our children, our spouses and other family members and even our friends. Our spirituality has received a boost along the way, too. The collective force of these strengthened bonds has changed the heart and spirit of America in a quiet but powerful way.
It is also good that we as Americans have been forced to look beyond our own cloistered society for answers. Our view of the world has expanded greatly. As a nation we have come to know that we are no longer insulated from the evil and deprivation that many people in the world live with routinely each and every day.
In this realization, we have the opportunity to become an even greater society. We owe this much to those who gave their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.
Don Smith is publisher of the Empire. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.