Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Not Optimism, But Hope

In twenty years, America has gone from the apogee of patriotism after 9/11 to a mire of discord, depravity, and the demise of faith.

Tattered American Flag After Hurricane Sandy
(Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

On September 11, 2002, when I was a columnist for the New York Post, I stood on the perimeter of Ground Zero waiting for the start of the anniversary memorial service. At precisely the moment the ritual began, a wind so fierce that one television commentator called it “biblical” began to blow. It was the outermost fringe of an Atlantic hurricane, but its timing and intensity felt eerie, especially as the winds did not die down until the end of the ceremony.

That afternoon, a journalist friend who had been with me that morning phoned and asked me in an anxious voice to come over at once. When I arrived, my friend showed me to her home office. She pointed to a small Revolutionary War-era American flag framed under glass hanging on the wall. It was torn from top to bottom.