Remembering 9/11

Fourteen years have gone by but the memories are still fresh.

The Senate Office Buildings where I grew up looked like they were under siege. Concrete barriers blocked the streets.

Police were posted at intersections leading to the Capitol. The National Guard could be seen patrolling the grounds.

Chicken wire surrounded the perimeter of the Hart Senate Office Building. HAZMAT crews in their space suits could readily be seen moving about in and out of the building.

What used to be the Senate's day care facility had been turned into an emergency response center. It was across the street from where The Heart of America was housed at that time. Daily, we could see people lining up for testing and treatment where children once played.

The country was still reeling from the aftershock of the World Trade Center when we were staggered by yet another blow - an Anthrax attack. "Not again," the soul whispered as the news broke, fearing the worst, wondering how many times the heart can break.

But in the midst of all the pain and sadness came reason for hope and gratitude:

• The way our country responded and the way our people came together. In truth, we answered their worst with our best.
• The courage shown by those whose lives were shattered on September 11, their grace under pressure.
• The rescue workers and those who lined the streets of New York at all hours of the night, applauding the rescue workers on their way home.
• The opportunity to redefine heroism in terms of service. Before September 11 if you asked people about their heroes, kids would talk comic books and adults would talk sports. Now when you ask about heroes, the image that comes immediately to everyone's mind is a man or woman in uniform rushing into danger to rescue another human being in peril.
• The leaders who rose to the occasion and provided unimpeachable evidence that "Yes, the system can still work."
• The reminder that freedom is our core value and that freedom is always at risk.
• The opportunity to stop and collectively consider what truly matters in our lives.

Now and then, it comes down to the unending battle between darkness and light. Daily, we are challenged to answer evil with compassion, ignorance with understanding, and hate with love.