Remembering Sept. 11, 2001

Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Why should Americans, present and future, remember Sept. 11, 2001?

With just under three decades of teaching U.S. history in private and public high schools and four days after my 50th birthday, I believe Sept. 11 should be retained and recalled in our collective consciousness because like Dec. 7, 1941, Nov. 22, 1963, and July 20, 1969, it represents not just an end or a beginning but a significant challenge for our democratic culture and American idealism. As Charles Dickens wrote: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

Dec. 7, 1941, should be retained and recalled because as President Roosevelt's eloquent words proclaimed to a stricken nation and a generation which had survived the Great Depression, it was "a day which will live in infamy." FDR, supported by Eleanor, had said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." He called upon the greatest generation of men and women in American history to defeat German Nazism, Italian fascism and Japanese militarism. They did so with great loss of life and sacrifice and then helped rebuild former enemies into economic and democratic powerhouses.

Nov. 22, 1963, should be retained and recalled because more was lost in Dallas then President Kennedy and more should be remembered than how he died and how Jacqueline asked that he be buried. JFK challenged each of my generation with the words from his Inaugural, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what together we can do for the survival of mankind." Humanity continues to be challenged by the complexities of his words.

July 20, 1969, should be retained and recalled because Neil Armstrong did not walk on the moon alone. His words, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" will continue to be heard by present and future generation as we deal with the use of technology. Armstrong and his crew, Ed Aldrin and Michael Collins, along with NASA and the entire space program spoke to our better angels regarding what America could achieve and what the future could be. But Apollo 11 should be remembered alongside Apollo 13 and the courageous and miraculous events which allowed the safe return of Jim Lovell Jr., John Swigert Jr. and Fred Haise Jr. to their loving wives and families.

Today, Sept. 11 should be retained and recalled as it will be experienced all day in three sets of events: before noon, at noon and after noon. Each event stands alone and yet should bond us every day, all day as one nation, one community, one people. In our collective consciousness, we are alone together!

Before noon, at 8 a.m., K-Beach Elementary School will have a flag-raising ceremony to remind us of the patriotism within the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Freedom of speech and of the press and the right to peacefully assemble must be celebrated and never restricted. Our individual right to self-determination is what the American Revolution was all about. This is why we should all vote in every election.

At 10 a.m., the Soldotna Police Department will host a ceremony by the Alaska State Troopers, Soldotna Police Department and Central Emergency Services. This will be a place to remember the emergency services heroes past, present and future. Our local community is greatly enhanced by these dedicated citizens and all the medical professionals that extend our lives and improve their quality.

At noon in the Kenai Central High School auditorium, the American Legion Post No. 20 will help us to commemorate the innocent victims of the Sept. 11 attack on America. We are asked to remember those who died and to support America's newest veterans engaged in the war on terrorism.

After noon, at 6 p.m., the Soldotna Visitor's Center will be the location for the unveiling of the new signage for the David Douthit-Veterans Memorial Bridge. David Douthit was a Soldotna High graduate and the only Alaskan killed in the Persian Gulf War.

I still remember him as a student while I taught at SoHi. He and all veterans remind me of my father and namesake who was killed overseas as a Navy pilot leaving my mother, his wife of 11 years, with five children and 42 years of being his widow. I also will remember my only brother, Mike, who returned from Vietnam with a Silver Star, a Purple Heart and permanently disabled.

At 7 p.m., Soldotna High School will be the location for a community ceremony focusing on spiritual values, prayer and what freedom in America means for the future. It will remind me that with God all things are possible. I will remember my sister, Vicki Leach, and her husband, Daryl. After being a Green Beret in Vietnam, he returned home to marry Vicki and help raise their nine children. Autumn graduated from law school this year, and Tamara, with degrees in biology and chemistry, will be a scientist. God is good.

Sept. 11 must remind us of all these things. Americans have always paid for freedom with their blood, sweat and tears. They have done so because of their hope and faith in a better America for those who follow them. We should remember this today but also every day, all day.

Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey also is a teacher at Skyview High School.

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