There are a lot of other things I’d rather be writing about, but as Sept. 11 approaches, I cannot ignore the memory, now 18 years old, of that infamous day — my generation’s Pearl Harbor. 

I cannot ignore it because we must never forget it. The day terrorists flew two airplanes into the World Trade Center, a third into the Pentagon and a fourth failed attempt to destroy another American icon, probably the White House or perhaps the U.S. Capitol. 

My son was in the Marines at the time, and he could see the Pentagon burning from his apartment. But it was two days after the attack that  he was able to phone home to let us know he was safe. It felt like two years. 

I have long hoped that the anniversary would come when I didn’t feel compelled to add my thoughts. Time, it is said, heals all wounds, but this one festers. 

For a brief time, we mourned as one nation, one people. Not Republican or Democrat. Not black or white. Not straight or gay. Not liberal or conservative. 

Once again, we are a house divided. 

That’s not to suggest a free nation such as ours should be free from dissent, debate and discordance. Our ability to disagree openly is a hallmark of our democracy. But we have lost the middle ground where tolerance and compromise dine. We have such disdain for each other that we are destroying ourselves. Civil discourse is dead or dying. 

Where we should be “united,” we are “untied,” and the problem is much more than an anagram. 

Left or right, there is no effort as far as I can see to bring the ends together. Plenty of blame. Plenty of finger pointing. Plenty of hateful rhetoric. Politically, we can’t even stand to be in the same room together. 

We are a nation at war — at war with the world and at war with each other. We have developed a rigidity within our personal ideologies that refuses to bend. Like a twig on a tree, that which will not bend eventually will break. 

We are not without hope. The generation behind me is strong. Many of the young adults I know are interested in politics well beyond the meme-driven world of social media. 

They are thinkers and readers and activists. They understand that complex problems do not have simple solutions. They want a better world than the one handed to them, and they are willing to work to make it happen. 

They’ve never known a time when American soldiers were not deployed somewhere. They’ve grown up with mass shootings, political corruption, widening economic and racial divides. 

Like the rest of us, they suffer from political fatigue and have become numb to the news. Yet, they display a resolve, an understanding that it will be up to them to right this ship. 

The path to experience is marked by many missteps. I have faith that they will learn from their mistakes and will have the fortitude to push forward. 

I’m hopeful that their efforts will be driven by respect — respect for the Constitution, respect for differing opinions, respect for those who came before them and respect for each other. Civics without civility is anarchy. 

And maybe, hopefully, in another 18 years, 9/11 will be remembered as a terrible stain on our nation’s history and not as a fermenting reminder of the work we’ve yet to do. 

© Copyright 2019 by David Porter who can be reached at