Twenty years ago this week, America was united as it had not been in years. When the Twin Towers came down, a hole got blown in the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania was torn up, as four commercial jets hijacked by terrorists were turned into missiles that killed nearly 3,000 people, we knew where we stood. Aside from a few fringe elements with little following, we were united in protecting our country and exacting revenge against those who had organized and enabled the slaughter of Sept. 11, 2001.

Remember all those U.S. flags flying high? The magnetic ribbons on the backs of cars? The jump in volunteerism? For those of us who do, it seems like yesterday. So does the horror of Ground Zero, where the vast majority of deaths occurred, where the hopeful yet hopeless missing posters went up, where the fires within the pile burned for months, where the searchers in and out of uniform sought the remains that might bring closure to the victims’ families. To this day, no trace has been found of more than 1,100 people who perished when hell reached up 110 stories into the sky.

This week we remember. But we’re no longer unified. We’ve been torn asunder, by differences that seem irreconcilable. Can we rediscover any of that unity? It seems unlikely, but we can hope. Maybe on Sept. 11, 2021, we can remember we’re all Americans.

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