The terrorists who shattered America's sense of safety gave the nation a new appreciation for those who serve in the U.S. military.
Today is the first Memorial Day since the fateful Sept. 11 attack, and it seems appropriate that as the nation pauses to honor those who have served in America's armed forces it also should remember those who died that day at the hands of terrorists.
The patriotic feeling that is part of Memorial Day also swelled across the nation after the attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. Having seen how fragile our freedom and our safety was, Americans had a new appreciation for the nation's military personnel and the job they do around the world. Peace and safety no longer were something Americans could take for granted.
The war on terrorism is far different from most wars that have been fought by American troops. The enemy is out there, but we don't know exactly where. We are told that they will strike again, but we don't know when or how. It's not that much different from the uncertainty faced by a soldier in battle. All of America has a better understanding of the fear that can grip a soldier in combat and the courage it takes to stand up to that fear.
The way Americans responded to the Sept. 11 tragedy does honor to the generations of soldiers who have defended this country. There was a military response to the terrorists but perhaps even more important was the human response that occurred here at home. Americans showed their compassion by reaching out to victims and their families and they showed their strength by refusing to be frozen by fear.
Some observers may think that the fact that Americans largely have returned to the routine of their lives means they are complacent about the terrorist threat. That certainly isn't the case. But to let our everyday lives grind to a halt over fear of a random attack isn't what America is about and it does nothing to honor either the many soldiers who have died in battle or the innocent victims who died on Sept. 11.
In recent days, U.S. leaders have issued dire warnings that future terrorist attacks on U.S. soil are "inevitable." Their assessment of the terrorist threat may be realistic but it is a bit offensive to some Americans who read their comments as accepting or giving in to terrorism. Fatal accidents on the nation's highways are inevitable, but that doesn't mean Americans don't do everything they can to minimize the risk.
The United States is resolved to use all of its inner strength as well as its military strength to stand up to the threat of terrorism in America and around the world. That's a battle that will do honor not only to American military veterans but to those who died on Sept. 11.