Sept. 11's unexpected Thanksgiving gifts

Heroes: Undaunted courage and national resilience offer real comfort amid sorrow and loss.

November 22, 2001

AMERICANS traditionally bow their heads on this most American of holidays to thank their various gods for peace and prosperity.

By one measure we have neither this year -- and yet we have so much more.

We are a wary people now, but that can be a good thing, because we can no longer ignore the dangers of this world -- and because we have passed at least a preliminary test of will.

We can be optimistic that victory and then peace will come more quickly than we thought in Afghanistan. A prolonged war seems less likely. And much of the world -- including significant parts of the Muslim world -- has joined our anti-terrorism campaign.

Our economy may take a bit longer to turn up, but the recession could be a brief one.

We have a gift of renewed citizenship, a dramatic proof that our spirit lives, not just in history or in song, but in our hearts and minds. Hadn't many of us been pampered and softened by good fortune, overly committed to toys of the cyberworld, to SUVs and to beach houses? Didn't we wonder how we might respond to a challenge? Aren't we convinced now that sacrifice will be needed to prevail?

More trials lie ahead, but we can face them with confidence drawn from the strength and resilience we saw on Sept. 11 and every day since then.

We have so many anonymous neighbors to thank.

Members of the FDNY, the NYPD and the Port Authority Police plunged into World Trade Center buildings knowing they might not emerge. For them it was a day like any other day -- even as it was one of the most horrendous of days. As always, these officers did their jobs with pride and skill. Pentagon workers, including 53 Marylanders, must be honored in our memories as well.

We are in awe of the airline passenger who said, "Let's roll," as he rallied others to take back a hijacked airliner likely headed for the White House. The plane crashed in Pennsylvania, but our pride soars. Americans saw their duty and their fate and accepted it with M-ilan.

We hear the echo of our heritage in their deeds. These men and women paid the ultimate price in a way that will be heralded on anniversaries of 9/11/01 as long as the nation survives.

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