I can't even remember where it was, but in the months after 9/11 I was giving a lecture when a young person rose with a question.
He said, "you keep talking about the brave Americans but aren't the people who flew those airplanes into the twin towers heroes too? After all, they believed so deeply in their cause, they were willing to give their lives for it."
I was stunned.
"No," I told him, "those people are not heroes nor can they ever be. They deliberately took the lives of innocent men, women and children to promote their cause. No cause, even a noble cause, is worth that."
"Americans did the opposite, over and over," I said, "they risked their lives — some gave their lives — for no reason or reward except to save the innocent." And not just at Ground Zero and the Pentagon but all over America people went back to work, opened their homes to those without homes, Congress passed emergency legislation, partisan differences faded, road rage vanished as the country came together as it had not come together since World War II.
Sadly, much of that feeling has drifted away but I like to believe that deep down it is still there in all of us. We must never forget the dark day that was 9/11, but we must always remember it led to America's finest hour.
We were all heroes that day. We had to be.
By Bob Schieffer