Nevada Day, a year after the terrorist attacks

I was thinking back to Nevada Day a year ago.

Six weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, we were all still numb, a bit stunned, wary of the future.

We waved flags. Lord, did we wave the flags. There was a big new one on C Hill, and almost every house and business in Carson City had some version of the red, white and blue displayed on the premises.

We were one nation, under God.

The war was on terrorism, and we were certain Osama bin Laden's head would be on a pole somewhere any day.

Anthrax, not a sniper, was the feared killer in Washington, D.C.

It's a year later, and I'm wondering how much has changed. In Nevada I think not much.

We're still going to be as patriotic as ever, waving the flag and doffing our hats when the color guards go by. We owe a lot, perhaps everything, to the veterans who have served their country and to the sons and daughters who are serving today.

There will be no shortage of opportunities to honor them during Saturday's parade, starting with the Southern Paiute Veterans Color Guard -- position No. 1, representing not only our patriotism but the parade's theme of Indian Country.

I see by the parade list there will be ROTC members, a World War II memorial, a group of Korean War veterans, Pearl Harbor survivors, American Legion, Nevada National Guard and others.

I expect the crowd will be a little rowdier than last year, not quite as somber as when the cloud of the terrorist attacks was still hanging over everything. We were all apprehensive about the future then, and I think it took a better part of the year for us to shed the pall.

We were wondering then whether we should travel during the holidays. We worried about the big things -- Are terrorists going to attack somewhere, somehow again? -- and we worried about the little things -- How many hours early do we need to show up at the airport in order to make it through the new security procedures?

Every suspicious envelope was a potential threat, because some people had died from anthrax. Every oddity at the airport drew a second look. In a sense, we were all wondering if we were on the front lines of terrorism.

Now, we know we weren't. We sent troops to Afghanistan, and some died. We cleaned out a nest of evil, but the man who became Public Enemy No. 1 still has not been found.

I see a few flags flying, but mostly I see only remnants of the defiance Americans showed a year ago. Here and there a tattered decal making some threat against Osama bin Laden. A faded newsprint flag in a window.

An off-color cartoon about terrorists stapled to a bulletin board.

It's been months since I saw any pickup trucks zipping along Carson Street with a full-size American flag flapping from the bed.

President Bush says the United States should invade Iraq and take the war on terrorists to a new front. In Maryland, innocent people are being gunned down by a deranged sniper. Residents there wonder whether they should go outside.

In Nevada, though, for most of us, it all seems so far away. We're having a party. We're going to share some drinks, go dancing, wave at our friends in the parade.

But that's why it's so important to remember to thank the veterans, to wave the flags and to pause to remember those victims from the World Trade Center and Pentagon and the three jet-liners used as weapons against them.

There will be no moment of silence during the parade this year. Whatever mix of fear and bravado coursed through us a year ago on Nevada Day, it's been replaced by the quiet confidence that while the world was changed forever on Sept. 11, Americans were able to restore a sense of order and purpose -- maybe not to the world, but at least to America.

Some paid the ultimate sacrifice. Most of us simply persevered.

From here on out, Nevada Day will always be positioned between a Sept. 11 day of remembrance and an Election Day when we choose our leaders. We can look back, and we can look forward.

It's reason enough to be proud of our state, and prouder still to be part of a great union.

Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal.


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