Sixteen years ago, the world changed. The attacks of 9/11 changed the United States, our place in the world, and the futures of both. In some aspects, sixteen years seems like just yesterday. The horrible images are still fresh in our mind. For many, they'll never leave. In other ways, sixteen years seems like an eternity. So much has changed even since the aftermath of 9/11, and not for the better.

After the shock of losing nearly 3,000 American lives in one day wore off, it was replaced by the unmistakable and unshakable American spirit. We pulled together. We supported one another. Everyone pitched in. It didn't matter what color your skin was, or what party you voted for in the last election. It didn't matter where you went to church. The only colors that mattered were red, white, and blue. We were all Americans. So what happened?

I don't think it was one thing that triggered a return to divisiveness. I believe it was a number of things. Numerous wars in several countries. An economy that took a turn for the worse. Political parties that were willing to politicize every issue. And make no mistake about it, this is not one sides fault. There is plenty of blame to go around. But now as we remember 9/11 sixteen years later, our country is more divided than I can ever remember. Sometimes it takes an unspeakable tragedy to remind us that despite our differences we're all the same.

So while we honor all that fell on this day sixteen years ago, it is my hope that this day will also bring a unifying trend to our country. As we remember everyone who joined hands and came together after that day, let it be a lesson. Let it teach us that while we don't always have to agree with our friends and neighbors, we should always love and respect them. That is what makes this country a special place. That is what makes us Americans.

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