Last week’s 20th anniversary commemorations of the terrorist attacks of 2001 stirred passions deep and wide. They reminded us of the fear that gripped us, the urgency we felt and the sense we had of sharing a perilous moment of history. And the remarks uttered to mark the passing of two fraught decades reflected both the tensions of that time and ours.
But we might gain even more profound perspective if, before the anniversary’s fervor passes and the moment is lost, we pause and examine two Sept. 11 speeches: one from 1941, the other made just the other day. It is all the more appropriate to linger over these addresses — part history lesson, part current events — now, when about seven-eighths of Americans were born after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and with about a quarter of the country’s population born after the attacks on New York and Washington.