By Stan Welch – This week marked the eleventh anniversary of the attacks on America. September 11, 2001 – I still lived in Myrtle Beach. I was still married. My son wasn’t even a teenager yet.
I owned and wrote and published a monthly hunting and fishing publication. I also worked part time at the largest gun shop and indoor range in the area. Dave, Bill, Al and I were having breakfast together before opening the store, when we watched the first plane strike the tower.
I still can feel the breath leave me as that fireball ripped through the building on the screen. We knew immediately it was no accident. Modern airliners don’t accidentally fly horizontally into skyscrapers. They didn’t do it in 2001 either.
Within fifteen minutes of opening the shop, we were swamped. I think we sold about a hundred guns that day, and all of the ammo of any significant caliber that we had in stock.
People bought and stayed and talked and drank coffee – and talked some more. They tried to make sense of what had happened. But what had happened was senseless and talking couldn’t change that.
The days that followed saw Americans united in a way they hadn’t been united in years, perhaps decades. We had been hit hard and hurt badly and we wanted some back. We were America, and somebody was going to be punished.
We were scared but we were determined and we were together.
That was eleven years ago, and I’m scared again. I think our nation is weaker than it has been at any time since the Viet Nam war, and more divided. I am afraid that those attacks eleven years ago had more impact than we even realized, and that they continue to do so. Economically, we haven’t been so weak and vulnerable in a half century or more.
Militarily, we are shrinking and being stretched thinner and thinner. Those who stand between us and the aggressors are underpaid and undervalued. It is beyond my comprehension that there are military families receiving food stamps while their breadwinner stands watch in some foreign land and the money they deserve is spent on feeding those too lazy to feed themselves.
But most of all, I feel that unity, that sense of our heritage is slipping away. Not since the Nam war, with all its protests and dissension, have the various factions in the nation been farther apart, and more strident towards each other.
I think we are being driven apart, losing sight of our commonality. We are dividing into tribes and special interest groups and hyphenated nationalities where American follows Hispanic, or African or Italian, instead of simply being Americans.
We are breaking our contract with freedom, the contract that said we will all come here and work towards a common good, a greater liberty, a better life. I’ll help you and you help the next fellow and we’ll all rise with the tide.
Eleven years since the world drove us together – eleven years to drift back apart. We are a nation under duress right now – challenged economically and militarily and culturally. And worst of all we are a house divided – and we cannot stand for long like that.
So as we face so many other challenges, the greatest one we face is to reclaim our place in the world and to stand side by side; not always agreeing on process or policy, but sharing a common goal. We are America and we must celebrate that among ourselves, and remind the world as well.