When does a current event become history?

When do we finally step out from its shadow and let it become “the past” instead of “the present?”

When can we finally stop “bearing the load” of a troubled time?

There’s no easy answer to that question. But standing here, 20 years after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, we’re fairly sure that we’re still living in its echoes.

Not only are countless Americans still mourning the loss of loved ones in the terror attacks, but it often seems like the country at large is still dealing with the trauma of that day.

From scanners at the airport, to news reports of possible terrorist threats, our lives are filled with subtle reminders of how everything seemed to change.

People often think back fondly to how, in the wake of the attacks, it seemed that Americans of all stripes were coming together to step firmly into the future.

But now, as a war sparked by the attacks comes to a chaotic end, our country seems more divided than ever over what we stand for.

And perhaps that’s the answer to our original question: that we shouldn’t let things go, we should learn from them.

With 20 years of hindsight, we should look at what our government chose to do in an emergency — the wars, the policies and the messages — and not be afraid to say what worked and what didn’t.

It's often said that we were caught off-guard by the events of 9/11. We should do our best not to let that happen again.   

We should look at the world now, radically changed from two decades ago, and see where we fit on the global stage.

But most importantly, we should look back on that distant autumn where it seemed that Americans could truly look at each other and say “your pain is my pain, your fear is my fear, and we’ll help each other through this.”

We think that most everyone reading this would agree that there’s not nearly enough of that going on nowadays.

When we can learn those lessons, and come back stronger because of them, we might be able to start slowly turning the page.

But for today, let’s put aside the politicking and the history books. There will be plenty of time to pick them up again tomorrow.

For today, tell a loved one you’re thinking of them. Tell them that they mean more to you than they’ll ever know.

Because life is short. And that’s possibly the most important lesson of all.

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