Tomorrow marks 18 years since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on American soil. On Patriot Day, we look back each year at what is arguably the most tragic day in recent history.

All who are old enough can remember with clarity exactly what we were doing and where we were when we first heard what was happening. Most of us stopped what we were doing and watched the news coverage as events unfolded, each more horrifying as realization set in that the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center was not an accident, as originally believed. America watched as the second plane hit, as the towers burned, as people jumped from upper floors, as the buildings collapsed.

It came closer to home when another plane hit the Pentagon, and closer still when Flight 93 crashed in a farm field in Somerset. Planes were grounded and all waited in fear of yet another tragedy. We cried much of the day and watched the news coverage late into the night.

For weeks afterward, we were stunned. We grieved together as a nation. We cherished our loved ones more. We hugged our children tighter. We were kinder to strangers, as we shared a common bond. We were thankful to have been spared. Some felt guilty for having survived. And we were patriotic, probably the most we’ve been altogether since the Great Wars.

While we would never want to repeat the events of 9-11, it would be wonderful if we could continue to experience the unity we had in the aftermath.

While taking the day to remember, we should take the day and after to also be kinder, to be more thankful, and to cherish the life we have and those who are in it. The events of 9-11 unfolded without warning, as most tragedies do. Like those who lost their lives or lost loved ones on that day, 18 years ago, we never know if the next beautiful, breezy September morning will be the last as we know it. With that perspective, often the things that divide us seem to be of much less importance.

Julie White can be reached at


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