Community Forum: Remember the spirit of unity

This week’s writer is U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont.
It is hard to believe that 15 years ago this past Sunday the Twin Towers fell, smoke from the Pentagon could be seen from miles away, and a plane went down in a Pennsylvania field. For those who lived through that horrible day, the memory still feels fresh.
Of course, this is especially true for those who lost loved ones. This weekend, Americans across the country gathered to remember the thousands of innocent lives that were taken so callously and indiscriminately in those terrorist attacks. And we remember the first responders, law enforcement, intelligence and military personnel who work every single day to keep our country safe.
This year, we must also take a moment to remember the spirit that united us in the days after the attacks. Americans of all races, religions and backgrounds stood together in solidarity — to support one another and stand against the cowardice of terrorism. Following the attacks, President George W. Bush visited a mosque. At a joint session of Congress, he reminded Americans that, “No one should be singled out for unfair treatment or unkind words because of their ethnic background or religious faith.” In the years after Sept. 11, our country did not always live up to those words. But we must remember the ideals, values and humanity that sustained us through those first dark days.
In today’s political environment, it is easy to lose sight of that common spirit. Some are trying hard to divide us. A federal judge has been accused of bias because of his ethnic heritage. Religious and ideological tests for visitors to the United States are discussed as though they are serious policy proposals. The sacrifices of war heroes and Gold Star families are belittled. And that is just the beginning.
On this 15th anniversary of Sept. 11, we must reject this divisiveness. While Americans will continue to mourn the loss of so many on Sept. 11 and in the wars that followed, we will never lose sight of the core principles that so many generations of Americans fought to protect. 

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