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In the mail and inboxes of The Billings Gazette, you can find a lot letters about Sen. Jon Tester or his GOP opponent, Matt Rosendale.

You can find some lingering commentary leftovers from the trip of President Donald J. Trump to Billings.

Of course, there are some letters about why Rep. Greg Gianforte should be sent back to Washington, and some that give a ringing endorsement to his opponent, Kathleen Williams.

Yet in the hundreds of proposed letters and guest commentaries, there were none that wanted to discuss or commemorate the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

We have mixed emotions about that. Obviously, if we're writing about it, we feel strongly enough that the day should not go without some passing or mention. Like with so many news events, we'll be at the annual memorial service today.

But, now 17 years later — what does it mean that 9/11 doesn't have the timely wave of letters and commentary?

Well, it's both good and bad.

The terrorists who perpetrated these horrible attacks meant to disrupt our lives and our way of life. They meant to devastate the economy, stop our foreign policies, and cause us to view the world with suspicion and contempt.

While it is true that the Sept. 11 attacks left us changed — just try going to an airport and you'll notice the difference — they have not deterred us from being a strong, prosperous country. Those attacks caused us to redouble our efforts at security and rethink the world, but America remained strong.

Instead, the attacks perpetrated by al Qaeda provoked a relentless pursuit of its leaders, many of whom have been captured, imprisoned or killed. The terrorists may have struck first, but we struck back harder.

When the attacks first happened, there was a wave of t-shirts, bumper stickers and other items that had flag emblems or outlines of the Twin Towers that said things like, "Never Forget." And for those of us who lived during that time, it's probably always going to be impossible to let Sept. 11 pass on the calendar without thinking about the horrible destruction.

Never forgetting probably isn't the issue. Instead, a better question is: How do we remember in a fitting way?

The victims of the 9/11 attacks were largely people who had just been hopping on a plane or going to work. They were people who were ostensibly living their part of the American dream.

It is right that we have memorialized them. It's good that the date still means something to folks who lived through it; that we can remember where we were when it happened, and the uncertainty of the days following as it became clear what happened and who was responsible.

We join with the nation to remember Sept. 11 for those whose families were left shattered because of the loss of loved ones. Though it's 17 years later, they still need our support.

However, we encourage everyone to take a moment to recognize those who lost their lives. We hope they can remember back to the feelings of uncertainty and outrage, and be thankful for those who have made this nation stronger by sacrifice. We also hope that during this day you can also continue to live out the American dream that they had, too. We believe the most fitting tribute we can give to those who perished is by living a full, vibrant life making sure that America continues to be strong.

The paradox is that not letting terrorism win means living the American way of life and striving toward prosperity. However, doing that also puts us at risk of forgetting the day.

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— The Billings Gazette


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