An editorial is supposed to be the view of the paper, and the entire editorial board. It is not supposed to be the view, memories or opinion of one single person – even the editor.
This week we’re breaking that rule a little bit.
This Saturday will mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
That day in 2001 was a Tuesday. Our editor, Jeremy Wells, remembers that clearly, because he was on his way to a Scioto County Commissioners meeting when he heard the news.
“I didn’t have television in my house, and the radio in my car was broken,” he said. “I didn’t hear the news until I pulled into the Super America to get gas. From the car next to me I heard a report that a bomb had gone off at the Pentagon. It was early, and they weren’t reporting that it was an airplane crash yet. I didn’t hear the full news of the plane until I made it across the river, to the courthouse in Portsmouth, Ohio.”
“I was still a new reporter. Still very young. I had no idea what to expect when I made it to the courthouse, but I figured the meeting would go on as normal. County roads still needed maintenance, after all. Bills still needed to be paid.”
“Instead, though, I went to the meeting room to find it completely empty. Down in the basement of the courthouse, where the commissioners kept their offices, I found them packed into a small office, huddled around a tiny, grainy television with its rabbit ears angled toward the open window high on the basement wall. Huddled together in that office – two Democratic commissioners, one Republican commissioner, two secretaries, and a still-wet-behind-the-ears reporter – we watched the footage of the planes crashing into those towers repeating on a loop as the entire nation tried to make sense of what we were seeing.”
“In the days that followed, partisan bickering would return, both in regard to local issues and how the President should handle the response to the attacks. But on that day, we were all Americans first. And we consoled each other and hugged each other and cried together like family.”
It was a short-lived silver lining, as we all know. But it was a silver lining for that dark, dark day.
Now, as we prepare to remember the 20th anniversary of that dark day, America finds itself fragmented and divided once again, quite possibly in ways that we haven’t seen since the late 19th century and the lead up to the Civil War.
We argue about our rights to forego masks while our neighbors struggle on respirators.
We argue about infrastructure spending that would benefit every American, simply because some part of the plan came from the opposite side of an arbitrary line down the middle of an aisle.
We regularly cut off our noses to spite our own faces and, even worse, to spite the faces of our family and those we share our community with.
It’s no different as we approach this solemn anniversary.
There are discussions to be had about the way we left Afghanistan this year. There are criticisms to be leveled, and there is work still to be done to help those who helped us in our mission over the last two decades. We need to figure out the best way to do that, and that is going to involve discussion, debate, and disagreement.
But we can’t let the debate and disagreement be the meat of the matter. They must be a part of the process, but not the point of the process itself. Too often that becomes the case in Washington D.C. But it’s time to demand our Representatives, our Senators, and our President and his cabinet do better.
We need to set our petty partisanship aside, and demand they do the same, and focus on those issues and those projects that will benefit us all.
New bridges. New roads. Better internet access.
These things help Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike.
Our partisan ideas, ideals, and opinions didn’t go away on September 11, 2001. They were still there, inside each of us.
But they weren’t the most important thing to us that day. Holding each other up was.
Two decades on, let’s remember that part of that day, and let’s commit to recapturing that feeling, that touch of silver lining on a dark, gray day.