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  • Bryan W. Alaspa

Never Forget, But Always Move Forward

Of course, like everyone, I remember where I was that morning. I have even written about it before. It was one of those days just like today here in Chicago - beautiful. What was weird was that it was gorgeous all over the country.

It was 15 years ago that the towers fell. Life changed for us all. Every year at this time we roll out the footage and roll those horrific scenes of the planes hitting the tower, the smoke, the people jumping or falling, the buildings collapsing. We say we will Never Forget. We salute the flag.

We've had a lot of war since then. We've gotten Bin Laden. We've blown up and killed numerous other terrorists and more than a few people that were just there and had nothing to do with anything. We've lost many more thousands of soldiers than we did on that horrific day, and killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and others.

What was amazing at the time was how the country did come together. I have never been a George W. Bush fan, but even I respected him and thought he did pretty well in the days after. I mean, he was in an impossible situation. I make fun of him for continuing to sit in that classroom, but am unsure what he should have done differently. If he had gotten up and waved his arms and run around like Daffy Duck in those old cartoons - what would that have done?

I know that a lot of things changed. Heck, that morning I was headed into work and listening to the radio. I was listening to Howard Stern, who was on an hour delay here in Chicago. He was boring me at that moment and I switched over to our all-news station. Just then they said they were switching to their New York affiliate because there appeared to have been a plane crash into one of the World Trade Center towers. I was listening, just pulling into the office parking log, when the second plane hit.

I was working as a benefits consultant for Aon. Aon had a lot of people in the trade center. A different branch of the company from where I worked, but just people trying to go to work and get home that day and a lot of them died.

It was not all that long after I decided to completely change my career. Now I am the author more than 30 books and write for a living. Was it all due to 9/11? Not entirely. Not consciously, but that day did make me think: life is short and I am not sure I like doing this HR thing. Maybe I need to think about doing something else. Life ends too fast.

Our country has changed, too, but I think we're still afraid. We haven't really moved on from that day. Kids have been born and they were either too little or not born yet on that day 15 years ago. They have only known life post-9/11. What do they see?

I worry they see fear. Too much fear. Rather than rising up and saying, dammit, we're going to be MORE American and open our doors wider and face the word defiantly and say - we're free and you can't stop us! I fear we have instead said, "We're scared of you. Stay away! Kill 'em all! Close the borders! Hoard the ammo! Get the guns!"

In the end, this day is something we should remember. What we should not do, however, is wallow in what we felt that day. We should not bathe in the blood of the people who died, or the soldiers who died after it. We should try to heal and be more American than before. Welcome more people. Show the world that freedom is worth fighting for, because we still believe in it.

Terrorism is called that because it sows terror. Hence the name, see. We should not act terrorized even all these years later. If we do, well, then, they really did win even if all of "them" are dead.


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