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Overcoming great challenges for the U.S.

Guest Column
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The worst of times can bring out the best in people, who rise to the challenge of rebuilding. During challenging times for our country, like those we currently face, we can be inspired by the way our Nation came together after the tragedy on 9/11. San Marcos came together at City Hall yesterday, on September 11, to commemorate those affected by this tragedy. As the San Marcos Fire Department Honor Guard and the Del Valle JROTC raised the flag that flew over City Hall on 9/11, I too reflected on that morning.

 At 9:51 a.m. on September 11, 2001, I was working in Washington when the fire alarm sounded and the Capitol police instructed us to evacuate. My staff and I proceeded to my nearby DC residence. Once the roads and the sidewalks emptied, the usually frantic pace of Washington was replaced with a somber, quiet city. Only the occasional siren, the roar of jet fighters, and whirling helicopter blades punctured the silence.

 The U.S. Capitol, federal buildings, and landmarks were all cordoned off. Some were blocked with flares, some with simple orange cones, others with more substantial barriers or squad cars positioned to let no vehicle pass. It appeared that everyone who had ever served in law enforcement had been called into service to patrol the streets with weapons very visible. At the Tidal Basin, I was struck by the sight of the Pentagon’s gray smoke wafting up from behind the white marble Jefferson Memorial. Under its dome walls, Jefferson’s timeless words are inscribed: “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

 That evening, I joined fellow Members of Congress on the Capitol steps at the place where Abraham Lincoln had been sworn in long ago to lead a deeply divided nation. We pledged to work together to resolve this crisis and raised our voices in an impromptu rendition of “God Bless America.” Now, when it feels as though our country’s leaders are in constant conflict with each other, we must remember that our strength derives from respectful debate and unity of purpose. There is so much more that binds us than divides us.

 As we mark this anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, while we are reminded of its horrors, we are sustained by the memory of its heroes, especially the first responders who put service ahead of self. We are reminded of the continuing sacrifice those in uniform make every day.

 This solemn anniversary arrived this year as we mourned John McCain, a war hero and American patriot. Service over self has guided his life as it will guide his legacy. He served our country admirably both in uniform and in the Senate. When we disagreed, we could do so agreeably. Even during his waning days, he had the courage to challenge the President and to vote his conscience on health care. May we find more public servants with integrity like his to offer leadership.

 While remaining vigilant in confronting the ongoing threats we face, let us also preserve our commitment to equality, freedom, and the opportunity for every person, regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, to fulfill their own American dream. And we need to continue working with our allies to ensure the safety of our families and our democracy.

On this anniversary, we honored those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, those who struggle to this day, and those who stepped in in unmeasurable ways. As one Nation, stronger together, we can do more to strengthen our security, health, and freedom. Patriots of all backgrounds must come together and work to preserve the freedom of opportunity and expression for all — as so many have sacrificed to defend — and resist those that would move us in a more authoritarian direction.

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 Doggett represents the 35th Congressional district, which includes San Marcos