For many of us, you don’t even have to say anything else. Just the mention of 9/11, and we can look at each other and find commonality and understanding. What a horrific day, followed by many days of uncertainty and questions. It’s hard to believe that thirteen years have gone by.

We all have our stories – where we were, how we heard, where we watched, and how we felt. They are seared into our memories. We don’t get attacked on our home field, but if we did, surely it would be a mighty army with all of the most advanced weapons systems. No. Just a few guys with box cutters riding on a few planes.

One of the most memorable things to me personally was how united the United States of America became in the days immediately following this event. Something rarely seen before, and sadly, after. We cared more for country that we did for party. We cheered for America rather than the candidate. This was just a taste of what patriotism could be like…and it felt good. I believe that’s why Barack Obama’s words were so appealing to us when several years later he said…

“Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America—there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.”

Oh, if that were the country we live in, but it isn’t. We are divided, and we even idolize and reward those who come along and incite the division. Today, everything is looked at through a racial filter. One political party can’t vote on legislation that might make sense because someone from the other political party presented it. Those who create and oversee our laws routinely break our laws. And if you dare mention the name of God in many arenas, then you are a small-minded bigot.

Think of how far things have declined since that day. While there was division among us before 9/11, a new “normal” has been established in our country since it. Everyone needs someone to blame for everything that happens in their lives, and because of that, we attack and malign those who give of themselves to support communities, states, and country. We have a mentality now that we are owed something by others, so instead of going out and earning what we have in life, we wait for someone to give it to us. We no longer can have a civil debate or offer differing opinions…oh no – that is inexcusable and cannot be tolerated. Freedom? Oh no…we are rapidly eliminating freedom. Ask yourself, am I now more free or less free to express my opinion? Ask yourself, is the press more free or less free to report unbiased news? Ask yourself, are you more free or less free to worship and hold to religious beliefs?

9/11 was a nightmare of a time in our country, but one of the lone positives that came was that we were just Americans. No other labels mattered. We were just Americans. As we remember 9/11 this year, we should ask ourselves what we want America to be. Are we pleased with the path we are on, or does it scare us? If it’s the latter, then what will you do about it? What will you demand from the people you elect? How will it change the way you interact and respond to others who disagree with you?