By Rep. Anita Kulik
As I write this article, we are coming off of a summer recess, when the legislature is not in session. So many activities occur during this time, including policy hearings, meetings with groups and individuals, and so much more that is part of being an effective legislator.
I have been working on various legislative proposals while pushing for action on Alina’s Law, a bill designed to protect victims of domestic violence by giving the court a mechanism to enforce orders for PFAs. I have proposed this bill every session.
Many bills are now going to be addressed in various committees, and new legislation is being introduced, in an attempt to address problems that are old and new. I have been speaking and communicating with fellow legislators as I sign on to co-sponsor various bills and as I seek to get support for legislation that I believe is worthy of consideration.
But, as I prepare to return to Harrisburg on Sept. 19, thoughts of 9/11, are in the forefront, as I am sure they are for many of you. While we promised to “never forget,” a special milestone, such as this year’s 20th anniversary of the attacks, bring these memories to prominence.
During these past couple of weeks, we have been reminded of the events, and the aftermath of those events, that we have lived with as a nation. Twenty years ago our nation changed in ways none of us would have ever imagined.
On Sept. 11, 2001, we as Americans suffered an attack on our soil that we had never seen before. The attacks on New York City and Washington D.C. hit all of us as if they were attacks on our own hometowns. For those of us in this area, the sacrifice of Shanksville was indeed an attack on our “hometown.” The result of those attacks is that we came together on that day as one people.
This was not the first time we were attacked on our own land. The War of 1812 and the horrors of the Civil War come to mind.
The attack on Pearl Harbor and the invasions of the Aleutian Islands, U.S. territories at the time, made us well aware of how close war can come. But for the most part, wars have been on foreign soil. The 9/11 attacks changed our perceptions of security on our homeland.
The days and weeks following 9/11 saw us come together as Americans. Our shock and fear melted into a great sense of patriotism.
We cried for the lives lost and those left behind.
We shook to our souls as we saw people hurl themselves from windows, deciding that they would face death on their own terms.
We marveled at the bravery of the first responders who risked their lives that day, knowing that they may pay the ultimate price while trying to save others. We stood in awe of the brave passengers on Flight 93 who sacrificed their lives over our Commonwealth.
We were one nation then. There were no boundaries, no state lines, no city limits. We were not black or white, nor red or blue. We were united. We stood as Americans and our sense of community, and national unity, was genuine.
Twenty years into this, we see how our lives, and the way we do things, have changed.
We can no longer just walk into an airport.
We accept long security lines and showing our identifications to get on airplanes. Such things are now accepted as routine and done without thought or question. We have now spent several years getting used to the idea of REAL ID. We go to Steelers games and other events carrying small clear bags through metal detectors without thought. We go about our lives knowing there are security cameras all around us.
Our safety and the safety of those around us depend on these measures. We accept these steps because we know what the consequences could be and how our safety could be compromised. There are good people in our country who have made it their job to keep us safe.
Just as this is true, there are people in our country who have made it their job to keep us safe in other ways. Medical professionals and scientists have worked diligently over the past year and a half to keep us healthy through the pandemic. Grocery store workers, first responders, military personnel and others put their own health and safety on the line to keep us fed and safe.
What we practice today as far as sanitization efforts and the like will probably be with us going forward, much like the way security measures at the airports have stayed. We know how to deal with terror attacks, we know how to deal with natural disasters, and we will learn how to best deal with this health crisis.
I know that our session in Harrisburg will raise many issues that involve the current pandemic. I am hopeful that we will do this with a focus on what is best for the overall good of the citizens of Pennsylvania. It is too easy to lose focus on what is needed, on what is right, on what is best for the overall good of the order if we instead focus on “politics.”
It is imperative that we learn to work together as we always have in times of crisis. America has always come through in crisis situations and we have always been the example for the rest of the world. We can disagree, we can protest our government, and your government officials can argue. But we need to do these in thoughtful, respectful and reasonable ways.
Our democracy is built on our ability to question and disagree, but we cannot let our disagreements take over our sense of respect and understanding of the situations of others.
We have always been able to do things that in the end are for the common good. The 9/11 attacks shocked us into this sense of common good.
We need to remember so many things from that tragic event, just a short twenty years ago.
We cannot forget what happened that day, we cannot forget the sacrifices of that day, and we cannot forget the lessons that were learned that day.
A Kennedy resident and attorney, State Rep. Anita Kulik has served Pennsylvania’s 45th House District since 2017.