I remember that night in January 1991 when allied forces began bombing Iraq. CNN, which was the only cable news channel at the time, had correspondents in Baghdad and they had pictures of the missiles as they destroyed targets in Iraqi territory.
President George H.W. Bush came on TV to announce that Operation Desert Storm was under way. I can remember the fear we had at the time. Within a few days, we were flying the American flag like crazy. While the operation was over about as soon as it began, it boosted American pride like I had never seen in my lifetime.
A decade later, we experienced the horror of being attacked on our own soil. That was something we were not accustomed to. After we recovered from the initial shock, we flew our flags and rolled up our sleeves to donate blood.
Now, 11 years after the attacks, are we losing our patriotic passion that was ignited by 9/11?
Those who were around for World War II remember how American men lined up to volunteer for the armed services. Americans rationed rubber, sugar, gasoline and other goods that were in short supply to make certain we would have enough for the war effort. Families planted “Victory Gardens” to make sure they would have an adequate amount of vegetables.
Those who had money were asked to buy war bonds to help finance the war effort.
Americans were fully invested in World War II. You didn’t have to travel far in cities or rural area to find a family who had lost a loved one as a casualty of war.
Somehow, we never had the same passion after 9/11. Yes, there were reminders. The skyline of New York City was forever changed in less than two hours. I am reminded of what the terrorists did every time I have to undress in an airport to go through a detection device before boarding an airplane.
Sadly, 9/11 seems destined for relegation to the same shelf in our minds where we remember things like the day JFK was killed, Elvis died or the Challenger exploded.
The same is true for other days, like Martin Luther King’s birthday. As we continue to lose the generation that participated in the civil rights movement, those who follow don’t seem to have the passion of their elders.
Those who were alive during World War II are sadly dying in great numbers. We are 21 years past the first Gulf War and a whole generation only knows it from the history books. The same will be true of 9/11 a decade from now.
We have raised a generation that can identify the current “American Idol” and cannot identify their governor, senator or even their president.
Until we collectively unite in a groundswell of pride for this country, we will continue to lose the significance of days that should be noted and honored in our lives. We are a sad bunch of people who forget that our country was attacked one day and that brave men and women from this country responded like never before.
If we don’t change our course, 9/11 will one day be just another excuse for a department store to hold a sale.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and ongainesvilletimes.com/harris.