Something to remember on 9/11 anniversary

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Do you remember?

10 months earlier, we had just gone through one of the most contentious elections in American history. So close, in fact, that it spawned six weeks of lawsuits, court cases, dueling supreme courts, and even a khaki pants mob. From it, we all learned the term “hanging chad.” But, eventually, it got settled, and we moved on.

Sound familiar?

Spring and early summer in Colorado were dominated by sports, of course. The Colorado Avalanche, with Patrick Roy, Joe Sakic, and Ray Bourque, made an historic run to win the President’s Cup (for the best regular season team) and, on the strength of two incredible performances by Roy in games 6 and 7, won their second Stanley Cup.

Television was in one if its best phases, as “ER,” “Friends,” and “West Wing” were all atop the ratings, along with “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”. At the theaters, it was all about the kids, as “Shreck, “Monsters, Inc.,” and “Harry Potter” dominated the box office.

Summer became contentious again, as all of our natural American political anxiety was turned to the issue of… Stem cell research. Remember that? All of the debate and angst about whether it was ethical to use embryonic stem cells for medical research. Of course, the issue became moot not too many years later, when we discovered that we could harvest a person’s own stem cells and use them for a variety of therapeutic purposes.

One great example of science making politics obsolete. If only…

And then, one beautiful fall morning, we all realized how trivial all of our high dudgeon really was.

September 11, 2001, started out normal enough for me. Woke up to see my wife out of the house, got myself showered and ready to go; woke up my oldest daughter, got her ready and planted in front of a movie with a bowl of Frosted Flakes; woke up the baby, and was right in the middle of changing a diaper when plane number two hit the Towers. Work was surreal that day, and life was pretty different after that.

On September 12, I don’t think any of us could have possibly imagined two things: one, that the US homeland would not suffer another catastrophic attack in 20 years; and two, that the “war” would’ve lasted 20 years and ended in a series of ignominious retreats. That is both a testimony to our greatness as a people, the courage of our military, the dedication of our intelligence community…

And the stupidity of our politics.

Bin Laden thought he could break America by attacking us. He was wrong — that galvanized us. It took social media, unfettered money in elections, bankruptcy and violence in our culture, Russian Psy-Ops, and a virus from China to push us to this breaking point.

Can we step back from this cliff? Can our ultimate rebuke of bin Laden, Russia, and the CCP still be in the cards?

I think so. I hope so.

But it’s going to have to start with a rebuke of all the extremists on every side of the American body politic. No matter what your tribe, your party, or your ideological bent, every time we reach for unreasoning victory instead of reasonable solutions, we only confirm what bin Laden believed about us.

You want to remember 9/11 properly?

Be better.

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Valkyrie’s Kiss,” a finalist in the ScreenCraft Book Competition, is available now at mjalcorn@comcast.net. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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