Editor's note: Today we begin a new Opinion page weekly feature, Tuesday Topic. Each Tuesday in this space, one local, regional or state writer will discuss an issue in the news. If you have an idea for a Tuesday Topic, please contact Editorial Page Editor Michael Gors at 712-293-4223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recently, I traveled to New York with my wife and son. As a law enforcement family, our first stop was destined to be Ground Zero.
Our day began with a tour of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, followed by a walk through the memorial. To say it was impactful would be an understatement. Both my wife and I found ourselves experiencing a variety of emotions as we viewed the artifacts remaining from that day. We remembered how we felt 17 years ago, as we realized that the world had changed forever.
Americans have strong memories of how they first learned about what had happened. As live reports of a fire at the World Trade Center became news, Americans turned on their television. Many of us tuning in viewed live footage of United Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower. The story grew as the day continued with an attack on the Pentagon and a plane crash in a Pennsylvania field.
In the weeks and months that followed, all Americans worked to come to terms with what had occurred. But true to form, Americans confronted their grief, fear and disbelief with courage, patriotism and unity. Old rivalries, conflicts or differences seemed secondary to the strong nationalism occurring all over our great country. American flags quickly sold out and churches filled as people rushed to show the terrorists, and the world, that America’s spirit could not be broken. American pride and resolve was at an all-time high.
In the 17 years following, the war on terror became a sideline and subject for intense political debate. Our country’s flag didn’t get posted as often, and old conflicts became new again. We all became guilty of a certain amount of complacency in forgetting what we had been through together. The lessons we learned from watching the greatest nation in the world pick up the pieces of a national tragedy had drifted to the back of our collective subconscious. Even today we are confronted with strong opinions emerging from social media and the increasingly polarized nature of politics and public opinions.
A casualty of all this technology and a 24-hour news cycle appears to be our tolerance and civility. Individuals and groups with strong opinions need only take to Facebook, Twitter or public venues to express themselves. For those with opposing viewpoints, the heated debate begins and a sharp response is imminent. This often happens with no consideration that the charged words drifting in cyberspace can never be taken back.
With all this change and upheaval going on in our country and around the world, we must remind ourselves of the important lessons that 9/11 taught us. It taught us that no matter our disagreements and differences, we were prepared to face adversity together. Together, in a grand melting pot where diversity makes us great and unity makes us stronger.
As we mourn this fateful day, remember that differences should be celebrated, not criticized. Show your pride in our incredible nation and, no matter your politics or opinions, demonstrate in word and deed that civility and respect brings meaning to the statement “We will never forget."
Rex Mueller is Sioux City's chief of police.