By Margarita Velez

“Never forget.” How many times have those words been repeated since the attack on America in 2001?

We held each other in sorrow, prayed together, wept as bodies were recovered from the rubble in New York and the Pentagon, cheered when Marines placed babies and toddlers in circles on the grounds and sucked our breath when we learned that passengers on Flight 93 overcame the hijackers and averted further carnage to their own peril. 

That clear day in September brought us together as a nation, one people united in sorrow and determined to survive.

Twenty years later, the speeches have died out, the flags have been taken down and unfortunately the scar left by the death of so many on September 11, 2001, has a scab.

Margarita Velez

Conspiracy theories surfaced and to this day there are some who doubt. It’s not new; my friend shared a tattered news article professing a conspiracy of JFK’s assassination. With the internet and social media, these theories grow and fester, yes fester, in minds that are fertile for denial.

COVID-19 is real, many people are dead or in hospitals in a resurgence of the virus that was almost under control. Yet, people refuse to get vaccinated. 

When the president mandates vaccinations and declares that if you work for the government, you must be vaccinated, the protests are deafening. Governors are poised to sue the United States because the mandate goes against their own denial. 

Now our state is suing school districts that opted for masks. Have we lost all reason? This is politics at its worst!

My hope that the anniversary of Sept. 11 would rekindle the unity Americans felt on that fateful day didn’t materialize. Instead, America is at war with itself, we argue about everything, and everybody thinks they are right. 

Wake up folks. We must unite again as a nation to defeat the virus that’s killing grandmothers, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and now, children. The answer to this virus is the best science can give us at this time. Let’s use it to provide safe environments where children can learn and thrive.

The other virus dividing us is political, but can and should be defeated. Elected officials should take on a mantle of statesmanship and discard the party vest. It’s time for leaders to come together for the betterment of our nation, not for the good of the party. 

As they vote on budgets they should remember that Thomas Jefferson said, “Never spend your money before you have it.” 

Our forefathers left a legacy that has stood for more than 200 years. Americans must stand together to preserve what they created for us.

The twilight of life is upon me and I want to see Americans united again. 

Abraham Lincoln, a favorite, said, “We live in the midst of alarms; anxiety clouds the future; we expect some new disaster with each newspaper we read.” 

Leave the news aside, think for yourselves and look for good in whatever you do. Seize the opportunity to unite our nation by putting aside pride and politics, extending a hand to our neighbors, helping someone in distress, and just being good citizens. Together we can do it; divided our house may collapse.

Margarita Velez is an El Paso writer and former district director for U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas.