As we approach Labor Day 2022 and the end of another summer, I am reminded that this year will mark the 21st year since the attacks of September 11, 2001.
We swore that we would never forget these terrible events and that we would do our best to educate our children. We figured the next generation would be better prepared and not have to relive the horror of that day. This year, the children born in this fateful year turn 21 and have become adults. Some have joined the military or become first responders, but the vast majority have sought other paths and are rightly focused on their future.
Our generation needs to be honest and ask themselves, have we made the world a safer place for them? Have we shared with them the story of 9/11 and the lessons learned so that they are better prepared than we were? Did we leave it better than we found it?
As new adults, they have no direct memory of 9/11. It is therefore even more important now that we continue to remember and tell them the story of that terrible day as they begin to assume the leadership of this great Nation. If we are to be honest with ourselves, we have to admit that they live in a much less secure world than we do, a world of endless change and chaos. They live in a divided nation where anger, distrust, division and conspiracy theory have become commonplace. They have never known peace in their lives.
For most of their time on our planet, our country was in a 20-year war in Afghanistan. Now they have grown up in a world where Russia is at war with Ukraine and the threat of nuclear war has once again become real. Our children have become adults in a world in crisis. Have we prepared them for what they will surely see in the years to come? Our history must be told to them with the hard lessons it has learned if they are to succeed.
It has been a generation since these terrible events occurred and it is now up to us to tell the story. To bravely face the future, it is important to learn the lessons of the past. Maybe this time they will succeed and at least not make the same mistakes we did. 9/11 is etched in our “national brevity” and the lessons of this day must be carried by our children to avoid its duplication in the future.
I have noticed over the years that our nation has become distracted, even ambivalent, about the details of 9/11. The event somehow seems more distant, less personal, even surreal, leading some to not even take the time to remember it. But remember we have to.
President Abraham Lincoln once said that ““You cannot escape responsibility for tomorrow by avoiding it today.“Similarly, not taking the time to reflect on the events of 9/11 will only ensure that our children will be caught off guard at some future time at our enemy’s choosing. America is always a beacon on the hill, but sometimes our light seems to flicker. Events in recent years have led many outside our country to question the 246-year-old American experience. We now have true peer competitors in space, on land and on our oceans. Other forms of government are seen by the global community as alternatives to our democracy and republic. However, all is not lost if we take the time to prepare the succession.
So this year, as we remember the events of that terrible day 21 years ago, standing alongside others in ceremonies across this nation and right here in Teller County, my hope and prayer would be that somehow we rekindle that feeling of nationhood that we seem to have lost. We must once again become leaders and positive examples on this planet. Empathizing, giving grace and leading from the front at all levels is always important. Our children have watched us for 21 years, and the question we must ask ourselves is whether we have prepared them for the challenges they now face.
Each year on the anniversary of 9/11, Teller County gathers at Lions Park in the town of Woodland Park to remember and come together for a solemn ceremony. We remember the men, women and children killed in the attacks of September 11, 2001, including the World Trade Center towers, the attack on the Pentagon and the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.
For our new adults, ceremonies like these will remind them of how close we have become as a nation in the days since the tragedy. 9/11 changed us. It has become a day of unity and empathy for all Americans — feelings that must be restored if our nation is to be whole again and our children to be successful.
Dan Williams. Dan Williams is the Teller County Commissioner of District 1 and current Chairman of the Board, a retired U.S. Army Colonel and several combat veterans, including Afghanistan and Iraq, the commander of the American Legion after 1980 and a life member of the VFW after 6051. He lives with his wife Suzan, a retired US Army nurse and colonel, on their ranch near Cripple Creek.
*There will be a 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony at 9 a.m. at Woodland Park Lions Park on Sunday, September 11. The public is warmly welcomed.