Given the significance of today, I thought I would take a departure from the normal posts on here to offer a few thoughts on 9/11...
The United States of America has seen many consequential days. July 4, 1776, April 12, 1861, April 9, 1865, December 7, 1941, and June 6, 1944 all signify epochal dates in American history. This week marks the anniversary of two such dates: September 17, 1862 and September 11, 2001. It seems as though many comparisons have been drawn between these two dates, and I think that is because each of these events tells us something important about our country.
As former President Bush noted yesterday in his remarks at the dedication of the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, 9/11 was the biggest loss of life on American soil in one day since Antietam. At that same service, former President Clinton invoked the stand at the Alamo and that of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae in remembering the actions of the passengers of Flight 93. President Clinton noted that these passengers' sacrifices gave the counry "an incalculable gift" that day. Such a gift was also given by those men who fought and died at Antietam.
Each of these days was a terrible occurence for the United States. Each day saw Americans tested to their limits, with many rising above the challenge. Just as Antietam saw soldiers sacrificing their lives for their country, ten years ago today we saw Americans sacrificing to save each other. The sacrifices made by soldiers on the battlefield are quite similar to those made by the brave passengers aboard Flight 93 high above Pennsylvania and the sacrifices made by those brave firemen and police officers who rushed into burning buildings on the verge of collapse. Each day saw its share of carnage, yet each day also saw even greater amounts of bravery and courage.
Certainly, these days were not fascimiles of each other. Antietam was but one day in a four year struggle over the meaning of American government and American liberty; 9/11 was a cowardly act of war by evil fanatics bent on death, destruction, and conquest. Yet, they each tell us similiar things about our country.
On 9/11, while the results of hatred and evil clouded the skies over New York and Washington, the love which common Americans had for each other and for their country rose to the occasion. On September 17, 1862, that same spirit of sacrifice for something greater was displayed in the midst of the most terrible one day battle in American history. Thus, while these days were separated by 139 years and by different circumstances, it seems as though some of the lessons from those days are the same.
Let's remember both anniversaries this week with equal reverence, and in doing so, as Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg, let us "highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain."
Our Country's Fiery Ordeal
A blog about the American Civil War, written and maintained by historian Daniel J. Vermilya, author of The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain (History Press, 2014) and James Garfield and the Civil War (History Press, 2015)
Dedicated to my great-great-great grandfather, Private Ellwood Rodebaugh, Company D, 106th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, killed at the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862.
"And may an Overuling Providence continue to cause good to come out of evil, justice to be done to all men where injustice has long prevailed, and finally, peace, quiet, and harmony to come out of this terrible confrontation and our country's fiery ordeal." -- Albert Champlin, 105th Ohio, Diary entry of June 19, 1864 (Western Reserve Historical Society)