Saturday is the twentieth anniversary of one of the darkest days in American history. It's been a hard day to recover from.
For a boomer like me, it's easy to remember the days before 9/11. Let's take a ride on the wayback machine.
The ‘90s had brought us the internet, Fox News and cell phones. It's probably just a coincidence that public education peaked in the late ‘80s.
As a country, we'd just finished eight years of the greatest economic growth in our history overseen by a popular president who just couldn't tell the truth or keep his pants on. When he lied about a pants mishap that took place in the Oval Office, the other side impeached him.
This led to a close race for president in 2000 when the impeachment side ran a guy you'd like to have a beer with against the president's side who ran a talking statue. Oddly enough, the talking statue won the popular vote but lost the electoral college.
The guy you'd have a beer with had been in office less than eight months when the first plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center. His privileged life as the son of an oil magnate and former president including free passes into prestigious schools and come when you feel like it Air Force Reserves duty was little preparation for an attack on the United States.
For many, the World Trade Center was an abstraction. It had just been an image on the television or background in movies. Maybe you'd seen it on a poster for New York City.
But for me it was familiar, and gigantic, territory. I had two uncles who'd worked on its construction. Most of my mom's family lived on Long Island just an hour from that spot. I'd stood at the bottom looking up and made it to the top and looked out.
I'd just been there a couple of months before on a trip to New York City with my girlfriend and all of our collective kids. We stayed in the Sheraton Suites next door and used the WTC subway terminal to get around. We'd stared up at it from our window at night.
Watching it disappear before our eyes that morning, along with the attack on the Pentagon, left America with PTSD and we've been fighting the symptoms since.
Now, 20 years later, we hardly resemble the United States of Sept. 10, 2001. On that day, we were still the shining beacon on the hill. The place anyone around the world longing for freedom, for hope, for a place to succeed looked to. We stood against tyrants, against oppression, and for democratic ideals.
Today, with our bickering political tribes and glorified ignorance, mass shootings and minority oppression, we look more like the country we invaded in response than the one that existed the day before 9/11.
If we're to recover from that terrible day, and I'm hard headed enough to believe we can, we've got to make some changes. Accepting that changes have to be made is the first step, so clearly we've got a way to go.