In so many different ways, it doesn’t seem possible that 19 years ago yesterday the terrorist attacks on the U.S. took place.

Most of the people who were alive on Sept. 11, 2001, can easily remember where they were and what they were doing when the news of the attacks flashed across television screens.

As a result of the attacks in New York, Washington, D.C. and a field in rural Pennsylvania, almost 3,000 people died and more than 6,000 suffered injuries.

The attacks on the World Trade Center cost the lives of 343 firefighters and 74 law enforcement officers.

I was at home in Lapel getting ready for work when I heard of the first airliner striking the World Trade Center. My first reaction was it was an accident; there was fog in the New York City area, similar to when a plane crashed into the Empire State Building.

But watching on television as the second tower was struck made it clear that this was an orchestrated attack.

The Herald Bulletin put out a special edition that day, the only one in my 43 years at newspapers in Anderson and Kokomo.

I was checking on family members who worked in Manhattan to see if they were safe.

Looking back over almost two decades, what strikes me is how Americans became united in mourning the loss of lives, to combat terrorism and simply coming together.

Firefighters and law enforcement officials were considered heroes by the majority of the population.

We have visited the Pennsylvania field where the passengers deliberately crashed the plane after taking it over from the hijackers, giving their lives to save others.

A visit to ground zero and the memorial is a powerful remainder of how much we lost on that day. I still remember a single white rose laid across the memorial listing names of victims.

Visiting those locations is a humbling experience.

It actually made me realize how much more Americans have in common than our many differences.

Having lived through the 1960s and 1970s with protests against the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement, I can’t help but think that America is going through the same strife right now.

The number of murders in major cities is skyrocketing, shootings are taking place in many communities big and small and police tactics and how Americans view diversity are being called into question.

Children today are living in an America that is divided along many different lines, including political, economic, racial and educational.

America will eventually emerge from this period of unrest and divisiveness.

The question really is: What will the country look like in the future?

Will it be a country where everyone is treated with respect and dignity and the voices of hatred have been silenced?

Or will America walk down its current path until another catastrophic event unites the country in mourning and patriotism?

Senior Reporter Ken de la Bastide’s column publishes Saturdays. Contact him at ken.delabastide@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4863.

Senior Reporter covering Anderson and Madison County government, politics and auto racing for The Herald Bulletin. Has been working as a journalist in central Indiana since 1977.

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