On Saturday, we will gather to remember the horror of 9/11. It is a day of infamy as we recollect the deadliest attack on U.S. soil by a foreign group in American history. That event 20 years ago changed all of our lives forever.

We were aware of terrorism. American history is a history of terrorism: the Tulsa Massacre, Rosewood, genocidal attacks against Indigenous nations, the lynching and killing of Asian Americans, just to name a few.

But never have we as a country been the target of terrorism from an outside force like what happened on 9/11. Some 2,750 people were killed in New York, 184 at the Pentagon and 40 in Pennsylvania, where one of the hijacked planes crashed after the passengers attempted to retake the plane.

The attack has personally affected me as two of my Princeton classmates were killed in the attack on the twin towers. While the pain of their loss has become manageable, still, there is a hole in my heart that I know will never heal.

Until that day, we as a country believed we were immune from a terrorist attack of this sort. Now, we realize that we are not immune and that the kinds of violence that are perpetrated in other parts of the world can also happen here.

We are a divided nation. The removal of Trump from office did not solve the problem of national division. Perhaps remembering 9/11 will reacquaint us with what it means to be one nation.

On 9/11 and subsequent days after the attack, I saw people who normally would not speak to one another work together to rescue victims in the twin towers. We watched Americans give their lives to stop a hijacked plane. We watched Americans embrace and encourage Americans. If we did it once, we can be united again. Hopefully, it will not take a tragedy to get us to that point.

To be a strong nation, we cannot allow our differences to tear us apart. There are still enemies of America that yearn for our demise. Only united can we defeat these enemies. Only our unity can maintain this great democratic experiment.

To mask or not mask, critical race theory or no critical race theory, becomes irrelevant if we do not survive as a nation. Sept. 11 reminds us that our continuation as a country is not automatic. We must diligently find a way to be one nation, one society, one people.

As you remember 9/11, think about ways you can foster unity in your own world. Seek ways to bring us together as a country. We must never allow the tie that binds us to be eradicated because of our lack of unity. It is our moral obligation to be united. We owe it to our children.

The Rev. C.W. Dawson Jr. was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in philosophy at MU. He teaches at Columbia College and Moberly Area Community College and writes for the Missourian.

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