Sept. 11, 2001, was marked indelibly in the minds and the memories of the American people. It was a day of tragedy that unfolded on every television channel, every computer and every radio, as the nation watched and listened as the day unfolded in terror.
For people of New York City who watched it from street level or surrounding buildings, those in the Pentagon and the passengers and crew of Flight 93 it was a day of absolute terror and heroism, of fear and bravery.
For our veterans it was a day that would serve as a reminder of why they stepped up, and for many young people it would be a call to service.
“The American people took 9/11 much more seriously than they did Vietnam,” said veteran George Nunnemacher. “With Vietnam, if they didn’t have someone over there, they didn’t worry about it except for those who protested it.”
“With 9/11 it was the first time the fight was brought to American soil. All of our other wars were on foreign soil, and we all knew from the minute the first plane hit we were at war,” Nunnemacher continued.
“9/11 differed from Vietnam in one very important way,” he concluded. “9/11 united the American people where Vietnam had divided them.”
“It made the world a little bit smaller,” said veteran Jerry Kriley. “It made me realize that we were at war with these people and always would be, and the American people realized it, too.”
“For the first time we realized it can happen here,” Kriley continued. “We never thought it would, but it can and it did.”
For many Americans the tragedy of 9/11 would serve as a wakeup call on many levels.
It would open our eyes to the many ways we can be attacked here in our homeland.
It would stir a sense of pride in the American people that had lain dormant for a very long time, and flags began to appear on homes and businesses across the country.
That sense of pride would eventually cause a level of awareness in the fact that many Americans no longer showed our veterans the respect and the honor they deserved.
For veterans of the Vietnam War, that respect had never been there.
As they returned home from duty they were accosted in the streets, spat on in the airports and shunned by the country they had gone into battle for.
Yet, after 9/11, many veterans of that era began to see a new level of respect in their fellow countrymen’s eyes.
That horrific day served to solidify our country’s patriotism for nearly 20 years …
And if it can do one thing still today, it can remind us to never forget that even if you don’t support the war, we need to support the warriors.
(See our tribute to the 20th anniversary of 9/11 under the special section of our website)
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