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Harris Blackwood: Let’s rekindle the American spirit that followed 9/11
Smoke billows from the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001, as seen from the New Jersey Turnpike near Kearny, N.J. - photo by GENE BOYARS

This week, it will be 18 years since a group of thugs hijacked commercial jetliners and crashed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and, thanks to some brave folks, into a field in Pennsylvania. Otherwise, it might have struck either the White House or U.S. Capitol.

Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

Today’s high school students will only know the events from their history books. People who are 30 or younger were just kids on Sept. 11, 2001.

Trust me, we don’t need another event like this; however, I wish we could rekindle the love and pride we expressed for our country in the days following the attacks.

It wasn’t the first time. We did it during Operation Desert Shield, the first gulf war when we pushed back the Iraqis from Kuwait.

We have a knack for responding during difficult times. There were stories of folks helping strangers in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Dorian.

If we were the people we would like to be, responding to people in need would become second nature. I try to be faithful about responding and succeed some of the time.

I try to put my flag on display on patriotic holidays. I have stood in Baltimore harbor where Francis Scott Key wrote his poem, “The Defense of Fort McHenry.” It was later set to music and became the national anthem of the United States. I think about my dad and others who served so the flag could fly freely. It causes a lump in my throat.

I pray for our country, our state and our community. I pray for those who teach in our public schools, including the woman who shares my name.

People often lament that we do not have organized prayer in our schools. When I was a kid, most of our teachers were either Baptists or Methodists. I don’t think people really think about the fact that a number of our teachers may not share our Christian faith, or any faith at all for that matter.

But we should pray for all who attempt to educate our children. They are subject to verbal and other kinds of abuse by people who take the word of their children without investigating.

We have lost respect for those who wear a badge in our community. We accuse them of all sorts of things. But if we dial 911, we sure expect them to show up at our house in a hurry.

Any type of public service has seemed to have lost its luster with the public. Yes, there are some people who are biding their time in search of a pension. However, many others who work in our public sector go the extra mile to see if there is any prospect for helping the young, the infirm, the elderly and the mentally ill.

Those who wear the uniform of our country may be on duty in a place where a hidden explosive could end their life or send them home minus a limb. We seem to forget that.

I’m not saying that another disaster could change our attitude toward country and one another. Yes, it could, but that’s not the answer.

We need to reach deep into our souls and find a glimmer of kindness and encouragement that just may be the tonic that someone needs.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on

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