Remembering Sept. 11, 2001

Posted: Sunday, September 10, 2006

As we approach the fifth anniversary of the deadly terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, many of the same questions continue to haunt the nation.

Can we have both a secure nation and a nation where individual freedom is still enjoyed and protected? Are we willing to give up some personal freedom for more national security? How much? At what price?

The additional security measures that followed last month’s arrests of those allegedly involved in a plot to blow up as many 10 passenger planes bound for the United States have increased the questions. It’s worrisome when seemingly harmless items like shampoo, toothpaste, perfume, hair gel and suntan lotion are prohibited from carry-on baggage. As one New York Times writer reported as airport security got tighter last month: “Overnight, the ordinary became sinister.”

The biggest challenge Americans face, of course, is not doing without their lip gloss on a flight, but finding the appropriate response to the changes. Do we take it all in stride, appreciating the great freedom and openness this country enjoys? Do we say enough is enough, fearing if we don’t say or do something now too much freedom will erode away before we try to regain it? Where is the balance? How far do we take that quotation attributed to Ben Franklin: “Those who give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety”?

We are reminded again that this country’s greatest strengths — our openness and freedom — are precisely the things that make the United States so vulnerable.

While there are no easy answers, there are two events Monday, the fifth anniversary of the 2001 terrorists attacks, that help us remember the day appropriately. We haven’t heard of any events in the central Kenai Peninsula, but these Homer activities could be worth the drive:

One is A Freedom Walk with a twofold purpose: to honor the victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks and their families and to remember those who are serving and have served in the U.S. military. Everyone is invited to join in the walk from WKFL Park. The walk begins at 2 p.m.; those participating are asked to be there at 1:45 p.m.

The second is a silent vigil, also at WKFL Park, supporting nonviolent steps to end the war in Iraq. The event will be from 5-6 p.m.

As the nation marks the anniversary of the events that changed our priorities in an instant, it is worth remembering our reaction to those attacks five years ago. We put aside our political differences, our petty arguments, our world views. Our collective and individual stuff didn’t matter. We were united on what was most important — each other.

Because we are a strong nation, we can agree to disagree on the events that have followed the terrorist attacks. In fact, we will know we are in real trouble when the spirited discussions over what should be done today end. As John F. Kennedy so eloquently put it: “The unity of freedom has never relied on uniformity of opinion.”

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