This day, September 11, is a hard one for many of our fellow Americans. I feel like it’s still a hard one, in many ways, for me too. It doesn’t seem like it’s been 22 years, but the feelings really are so raw for many as 22 years have come and gone since the unfathomable attack on America that took the lives of nearly 3,000 people.
The iconic skyline of New York City changed forever and so did our national identity, so did part of our soul when terrorists flew passenger planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. One plane ended up in a field in Pennsylvania thanks to the brave passengers on board. Days later, then-President George W. Bush stood atop the rubble at Ground Zero and delivered these iconic words:
“I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”– President George W. Bush, September 14, 2001
That moment is one of the reasons so many of us who took that in live at the time will always have a soft spot in our hearts for President Bush, notwithstanding the foreign policy debacle that followed. He brought us together at a time when we were ripped right down to our fabric apart. It didn’t matter if you were a Republican or a Democrat or an independent. What mattered back then was we were all Americans; we loved each other; we loved our flag. Our political differences were secondary.
The weeks that followed show the world the best of us. From the first responders who rushed into the danger to the everyday Americans who gave their time and money to help the victims.
A month after that terrible day, then-President Bush came back to New York City and threw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium before game three of the World Series. It was a moment that feels like it could not happen today given our divided politics. The entire stadium was on its feet as Bush exited the dugout, took the mound, threw a strike, and shook hands with Yankees manager Joe Torre and Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly. The crowd went wild as chants of “USA, USA” rained down.
My husband Doug, who lost a very good friend on 9/11, had registered for the New York City Marathon that year. I met him after, but he tells the story of how he had registered with a bunch of friends for the lottery. I think he said it was nine days before the marathon that he got a notice saying he had been accepted. He was the only one amongst their circle of guys who were all grieving the loss of their friend. He wasn’t really a runner, but he put on his sneakers and he did it. He completed it with bloody feet because the people were so inspirational around New York City that day. They held the marathon notwithstanding 9/11, and the people with their USA signs and their flags cheered on the runners at every turn. They were singing patriotic songs and proving our spirits had not been broken.
I left New York right before September 11. I’d been living here for years as a lawyer but had just moved to Chicago when the attack happened. My driver’s license still read 71 Broadway, which is where I had lived until a couple of months beforehand. One of the planes that hit the World Trade Center lost its engine on top of that building that I lived in. I used to go to the World Trade Center all the time just to read the paper, to get my coffee, to go to the Barnes & Noble, to go out for a drink at Windows on the World with friends.
So, today is personal for anybody who lived in and around New York. It’s personal for most Americans. It’s one of the reasons we don’t like seeing politicians or anyone else make light of that day or use it for politics in any way. Its sobriety, its importance is one of the reasons why we don’t particularly love it when our president doesn’t bother to show up at one of the memorial sites as is happening with President Biden today. He’s going to be in Alaska instead.
This is a day on which we remember those who were lost 22 years ago, and we reflect on the fact that it’s not over. First responder deaths from post-9/11 illnesses nearly equals the number of firefighters who died that day, not to mention those who gave their lives fighting for the country in Afghanistan and in Iraq. It’s absolutely chilling.
We also reflect on this day on what it means to be an American, the rights that we stand for, the way this country was crafted, the thing that made the terrorists hate us so much – much of which is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, and declared, of course, in the Declaration of Independence that preceded it. Those rights are inalienable rights. They remain what makes America special. We have rights written down and recognized that go unrecognized in most parts of the world.
What we have is important, it’s worth protecting, and it drives other people to hate. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth standing for. It certainly means it is worth fighting for. And those of us who are alive on 9/11 – and I hope to believe even the next generation – will never forget why we were attacked that day and the unity we felt as Americans once we were.
You can check out Megyn’s full analysis by tuning in to episode 624 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.