Sept. 11, 2009

It was eight years almost to the exact minute of this posting -- 8:46 a.m., September 11, 2001 -- that we suddenly began to care a lot less about sports for a while. That was the moment that a plane slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, the first of four attacks that would claim almost 3,000 American lives and alter the course of our history in ways that to do this we still do not fully understand.

To play baseball on that evening, to hold college football games on the Saturday after that Tuesday, as the World Trade Center still smoldered, would have been callous and unfeeling. And yet it was those very games, particularly the return of teams in effect cities like New York, that helped bring us back when they resumed shortly thereafter. They restored a sense of normality, a feeling that while the world might seem to be falling apart, everything was going to be alright in the end.

Sept. 11 almost snuck up on me this year. That's something that's hard for me to admit -- I pride myself on remembering when the day is approaching and on taking some time to recall not so much the terror of the day but the sharing of that trying time with fellow citizens, none of us with any more right to be born free in this nation than any other human being. But it wasn't until a few days ago that an offhanded reference on television reminded me that the anniversary was approaching.

And while I tire of politicians who suggest their opponents have somehow "forgotten 9/11" -- a preposterous and filthy attack against anyone who was alive and aware on that day -- I do wonder if we, as a culture and a nation and a society, have to an extent allowed our memories to lapse.

Part of that is healthy; a mature country should be able to pick itself up from even the most brutal blows and push on, find a way to get things as close as possible to the way they were while steeling itself for the changes and adaptions it has to make in the wake of catastrophe. We should not spend every moment consumed with fear about when the next attack will come or recalling the horror of that day. Those kinds of fixations warp people and alter their character. We should instead reflect on why we choose to protect this country more so than the time we failed to do so.

But we should not entirely forget how we felt on that autumn morning, either. We should always remember to mark the moment, however briefly, when it comes; to remember the sacrifice and the conviction that was still sharp and fresh in those days. I fear we've forgotten the shared purpose and shared humanity we felt that day. And so we are engaged in culture wars and political wars and wars over wars. We fling harsh adjectives at each other, we scream at fellow citizens, we become distracted and believe that the enemy is not on the other side of the world but on the other side of the aisle. And when we do that, we are wrong.

So recall for a moment how you felt that day. Remember how you regarded a fellow American -- how you should always regard a fellow American, whatever the political or cultural differences that might lie between us. It won't hurt, I promise.

And then prepare for another great weekend of SEC football. It comforted us then and allowed us to escape for a few hours the toll of human loss. It has lost none of its ability to do so over these long and difficult eight years.

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