The passage of time has its standout moments for all of us. It might be Christmas, or an anniversary, or a birthday.
But the thing about such events is that they tend to blur into one over time.
That will never be said about 9/11. It’s not simply a day that stands clear from all the others because of the events that took place during its morning hours.
It was, and will continue to be, a day that changes the course of our lives as Americans and citizens of this world in ways both big and small, in ways already seen and in ways yet to be revealed
The fifth anniversary of the attack on America was marked with due solemnity and reverence.
In addition to all the talk about the swift passage of the last 60 months, many people, especially in New York City, made note of the day itself in terms of the weather.
Sept. 11, 2006 was 2001’s near twin; a few degrees cooler perhaps while maybe the sky was not quite so blue as its tragic predecessor’s.
But they were pretty darn close. And that made some shiver.
One of the things that all of us have found difficult to come to terms with, even five years after the fact, is how such overwhelming evil could befall the world on such a beautiful day, the kind of day that some would call God-given.
But 9/11 robbed us of more than just the innocent belief that life is automatically made better by an azure sky, a kindly sun and a zephyr breeze.
It robbed us of peace, both in our minds and in our world. It robbed us in ways we now understand, and in ways that are not yet fully clear.
And it could go right on stealing from us.
No wonder then that we are at war with the thieves, those who took away so many lives, hopes and dreams.
But as we find ourselves looking back and expressing wonder at how quickly five years can pass we are also looking ahead and wondering how long this will all go on. In another five years will we still be at war? What about 10 years into the future?
President Bush has spoken of the war against terror as the defining struggle of the 21st century. Is he thinking of 100 years of conflict?
In his fifth anniversary speech to the nation, the president brought the global equation, the latest version of the new world order, down to that age-old and starkly contrasting pairing: victory or defeat.
Well, we know that this president is not going to admit defeat. And most Americans will be with him on that.
But how will he, and the rest of us, ever be able to define victory in a war such as this? Will it simply be the absence of overwhelming, murderous violence, an absence we recall from the lost minutes before we first heard about a plane crashing into the World Trade Center?
Or will it be the presence in our world of a level of violence somehow deemed acceptable, normal, less than standout.
Time should tell. But five years might not be enough of it.