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Twenty two years ago today on September 12th, 2001, Glenn wrote an essay called "The Greatest American Generation." These were his visceral thoughts immediately following the 9/11 attacks. This beautiful essay calls upon the American spirit to rise to the occasion to pull us through what was one of the darkest days in our nation's history. He called us to unite around the common vision that unites us as Americans.
Yesterday, Glenn revisited this essay, wondering if we are the same people who could have pulled through that dark hour. Do you still believe the things that he wrote in this essay? Or have we become a people too divided to overcome a tragedy of the magnitude of 9/11? Consider these questions as you read Glenn's essay below, "The Greatest American Generation," published on September 12, 2001.
I've always believed that the greatest American generation is the one that's living, in the here and the now. The question is not if this is the greatest American generation. The question was when were we going to wake up? I remember staying at my grandparents' house in the summer when I was small. Every morning my grandmother would open the attic door and call up, "Kids, time to wake up." For me she'd have to do this a couple of times before I'd lumber out of bed and cross the cold, squeaky wooden floor. But finally, I would. And she'd be there in the kitchen ready with breakfast. My grandfather was already outside in the henhouse because there was work to do. They were hardworking, good and decent people. Seemed to me that they were from not only a different time but a different place. They weren't.
The spirit of our parents and our grandparents isn't from some foreign place. It hasn't died out. It's a flame that flickers in all Americans. It's there and it's ready to blaze to life when we're ready to face the challenges that now lie at our feet. It's what sets us apart. It's what built this country. It's why our borders still teem with the poor and the tired and those yearning to be free, burned with zeal in the hearts of millions of immigrants from every corner of the Earth who came here in search of a better way of life. The flame that Lady Liberty holds is the American spirit which burns deep within all of us, no matter what our race, gender, our religious background. And today the world is watching us. It's really nothing new. It always has.
Since the dawn of man people dreamt of a better life, dreamt of a better way, of freedom. But it was Americans that finally found a way to build it. And out of all that we've built, the powerful machines, the computers, the weapons of mass destruction, hardware and software that we spent millions on every year to protect and keep the plan secret, our biggest seeming secret, the one the world wants most of all, isn't a secret at all. It's something we freely give to the rest of the world. And while it seems self‑evident to us, for some reason it can't be duplicated. Yet it can be passed on from person to person, torch to torch. It's the American spirit.
If you weren't trapped in one of those towers or on a plane or in the Pentagon, then you have great reason to humbly give thanks today, not for our lives but because we're the lucky ones. God hasn't forsaken us. He's awakened us. Standing at the bottom of the stairs, he's gently called out, "Kids, it's time to wake up! We've been given another chance."
Thousands of years ago in Babel, the great civilization in their arrogance built a tower that reached the sky. It crumbled and they were scattered. Our heart and steely symbols of power and wealth may have crumbled, but we have not been scattered. Americans aren't ever going to scatter. Let the world recognize through our actions today that those firefighters in New York are not the exception. They are the rule. Americans don't run from burning buildings. We run into them. It was a beautiful fall morning on the edge of the land created through divine providence. Coffee shops were open. Children were on their buses and people easing into another typical workday when America's greatest generation heard the voice: "Kids, it's time to wake up."
Several times we've ignored the voice. We've drifted back into twilight sleep muttering, "I know, I know, in a minute." But finally we are awake and out of bed, for there is much work to do. The task before us is much more daunting than what our grandparents and parents faced, but we are stronger, a more prepared nation. The torch has been passed. We are the greatest American generation. The American spirit is alive and well. Our flame has not burned out. It had just been dimmed while we were asleep."
Glenn often harkens back to September 11, 2001, as a pivotal day for the American spirit. When American Airlines Flight 11 hit the South Tower at 8:46 a.m. that sunny September morning in Manhattan, there was no question that September 11 would become one of the most consequential moments in American history. However, in that moment, the outcome of that day was yet to be determined.
How would September 11 be remembered in history textbooks? Would it be the beginning of the end of our Republic? Many thought so and for just reason. Our country was under attack. Planes hijacked by our enemy were headed towards the buildings that represented the institutions that comprise the fabric of our republic. If there was any day that called into question our nation's future, it was September 11.
New York City firefighters and a photojournalist work at Ground Zero after two hijacked planes crashed into the Twin TowersRon Agam / Stringer | Getty Images
But the American spirit had a different narrative in mind. Instead of caving to the narrative that the hijackers attempted to write, the American people rose to the occasion that duty beckoned. As Glenn wrote in an essay the day after the September 11 attacks, "Americans don't run from burning buildings. We run into them." And we did. Many remained there as their final burial place.
The American people rose to the occasion that duty beckoned.
As New York Governor Pataki remarked, "On that terrible day, a nation became neighbors." We weren't Democrats. We weren't Republicans. On that day, we were Americans. We chose to write a different narrative in the history books following 9/11, one of resilience, bravery, brotherhood, and the triumph of the American spirit.
As Glenn so poignantly wrote on September 12th:
The spirit of our parents and our grandparents isn't from some foreign place. It hasn't died out. It's a flame that flickers in all Americans.
And that flickering light turned into a roaring fire on that pivotal day, one that not even the fires in the World Trade Centers, the Pentagon, or the empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania could consume.
We chose to write a different narrative in the history books following 9/11, one of resilience, bravery, brotherhood, and the triumph of the American spirit.
But can we say the same about the American people today? Do we still carry the flickering flame of the American spirit that has been passed down to us from generations past? As Glenn reflected today, 22 years after penning those words, he isn't so sure. And I'm not either.
A candlelight vigil for the victims of the World Trade Center terrorist attack is held at Union Square in New York City.Evan Agostini / Contributor | Getty Images
The same American spirit that we relied upon to pull us through September 11 seems to be a waning flame in a torch that few are clinging to. We are increasingly losing sight of what it means to be an American. Common principles that we traditionally shared across party lines are now being vehemently contested, both by the ruling class and in the public square. This is not the same America that triumphed over September 11.
We are increasingly losing sight of what it means to be an American.
This raises the troubling question: Could we endure another attack of a similar magnitude? Would the triumph of the American spirit dictate the narrative of that day, or would a foreign enemy steal the pen from liberty's fingers? These are the tough questions we must wrestle with in our pivotal moment as a nation.
But these questions aren't devoid of hope. There is still time to recall those timeless principles that transcended party lines on September 11 and united us as Americans. There is still time to nurse the waning flame for those who are committed to holding liberty's torch. There is still time to view our political opponents as, in the words of Pataki, "neighbors," whose livelihood and future depend on the survival of our great nation.
There is still time to recall those timeless principles that transcended party lines on September 11.
But that window is short. We must strive towards unity now if our nation hopes to, as Lincoln said in his own time of division, "endure."
As Glenn wrote in that essay on September 12, 2001, we must be, "awake and out of bed, for there is much work to do. [...] Our flame has not burned out. It had just been dimmed while we were asleep."
Acouple cary the American flag down a lower-Manhattan street a week after the September 11 attacksRichard Baker / Contributor | Getty Images
Flames cannot flicker forever. If they are not nursed, they will flicker out, leaving darkness in its wake. It's time to wake up. We must be attentive and awake, nursing the remnant of liberty's flame until it is blazing like it did 22 years ago today. We cannot let it die on our watch. Too many people have sacrificed too much for us to drop the torch.
Is your wallet ON FIRE? You can thank Bidenomics for that.
Biden has been touting the alleged success of his economic plan. But why are 61 percent of U.S. consumers living paycheck to paycheck? In Wednesday's Glenn TV episode, Glenn showed you all the ways that the Biden admin has been skewing economic figures in their favor to boost their PR campaign. But one thing is for certain: the Biden admin's reckless spending continues to drive up inflation. You feel this every time you go to the grocery store or fill up your car with gas.
What's worse? The Biden admin doesn't even factor in groceries and gas into their inflation rate! Don't be fooled when they boast that they've brought interest rates down. The prices of products the average American consumes every day remain nearly doubled to what it was under the Trump admin.
See for yourself. Here is a side-by-side comparison of the most popular grocery items priced under the Trump admin and the Biden admin.