The real tragedy would be forgetting

I’m worried about America. No, not anthrax or further terror attacks. We have always been and will always be a target for terrorism, both from abroad and from within. What I most fear is complacency. I fear forgetting. I fear returning to a time when weather and traffic dominate conversation and our only nightly guests are the television news anchors. I fear self-centeredness. I fear misplaced priorities. I fear the day when my eyes no longer moisten at the sound of our national anthem. I fear forgetting Sept. 11.

How do we keep from forgetting? First, does your neighborhood have something as simple as a phone tree? Do you host a neighborhood barbecue once a year? Do you watch out for each other?

How do we keep from forgetting? Do we make Sept. 11 a national holiday? Why not call it One Nation Day or something similar? Imagine a holiday each year where everyone gets outside themselves and makes a point of reaching out and connecting, as a way of remembering our fallen friends and honoring our risen heroes.

How do we keep from forgetting? Maybe it means stepping up our personal commitment to each other, as Americans. This might be something as simple as obtaining a CPR card, becoming certified in disaster response through your local fire department or learning how to direct traffic in case officers are in short supply. It might also mean search and rescue training, volunteer firefighting, joining the police reserves, or enlisting in the Guard.

Each of us has the capability to increase his commitment to this nation in a way that makes the most sense for the individual. I’m certainly not saying it’s time for all young adults to join the Marines. But my fear is that we will do nothing. And doing nothing will lead to forgetting. And forgetting would be its own tragedy. If our lives change in some tangible, deliberate way because of Sept. 11, then we will not forget. Perhaps the charge of JFK is best echoed in these times: ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.


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