September the eleventh.
Chances are that most of you reading this remember exactly where you were 18 years ago when you heard the news.
You remember getting to a TV and watching with disbelief as a jetliner flew into a skyscraper. Didn’t matter what channel it was. The eerie scene was repeated over and over.
A fireman was standing in the street. The camera panned to the left and up – apparently the cameraman heard something.
It happened so fast.
The plane was a blur as it flew in from the right and smashed into the World Trade Center North Tower.
A passenger airliner.
Slammed into the building and disappeared inside.
A huge fireball and smoke.
Hundreds of lives gone.
In a second.
I was in a newspaper. The editor was working on that day’s edition. We had a TV tuned to a news channel. He ran to my office and said an airplane had just hit the World Trade Center.
A Cessna? I asked.
An airliner, he whispered.
We thought it was a tragic, awful accident.
Then the second plane hit.
You know the rest. Over the next 75 minutes almost 3,000 people were killed and 6,000 more were injured. Over the next few months, patriotism was on full display as a wounded country pulled together – perhaps in a way we had not since Dec. 7, 1941. For a period, albeit a brief one, we did not have liberals and conservatives. We did not look down our noses at politicians. We did not argue among ourselves.
For that short time we stood together. Lee Greenwood sang that he was proud to be an American. We agreed. Nationalism wasn’t a dirty word then.
It didn’t last. It never does.
It’s hard to fathom how we get from there to here – here being an America where hate is so prevalent. We don’t have debates about guns, we have arguments. Nasty, mean-spirited arguments.
We don’t have politicians running for president (or almost any national office) on their own merits. Now they campaign on what’s wrong with the other guy.
We don’t live in a country where you earn your own way anymore. We have a country where you can sit at home and get money from the government.
We don’t have Walter Cronkite, we have news from the right and news from the left.
We have mass killings at a rate never before seen in our nation’s history.
It’s been 18 years since four airliners left a trail of dead in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
It’s been 18 years. It seems like yesterday. It seems like a lifetime.
The tragedy from 18 years ago today pulled us together. Where were you? I was in a newspaper. I was in another newspaper when the Challenger exploded. I was at school when JFK was gunned down.
Events pull us together.
Today, I’m in another in the middle of America, an America that doesn’t resemble what it did 18 years ago. Doesn’t resemble what it did 50 years ago.
Can’t we find our way back without another tragedy?

Two cents, which is about how much Timmons said his columns are worth, appears periodically on Wednesdays in The Paper. Timmons is the publisher of The Paper and can be contacted at