Restoring the American Spirit

Is the Bush administration quashing our traditions of civic optimism?

| July / August 2003

or many Americans, it’s now possible to think of 9/11 as the past—a sad and unsettling memory. In New York, however, the tragedy is still part of everyday life, just like the rattle of subway trains and shouts of children in the schoolyards.

I realized this on a recent visit to the city for a conference titled “American Spirit, Values, and Power.” Strolling after breakfast one day, I passed the Squad 18 firehouse in Greenwich Village and remarked to myself how much younger firefighters look these days. Then—pow!—it hit me. I looked again and saw a plaque honoring seven American heroes. The young firefighters lounging on the sidewalk were filling the boots of men who died in the ruins of the World Trade Center.