Remembering What America Found After 9/11

A gathering of well-wishers wave patriotic signs and shout encouragement as President Bush and his motorcade depart a prayer service at the National Cathedral in Washington, Friday, Sept. 14, 2001.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
On the Sunday after 9/11 I wrote this:

"Americans came together last week as they had not come together since World War II. I first noticed it as I was driving to the Capitol. The road rage of rush hour evaporated like a morning dew. Instead, flags flew from car antennas, and drivers waved and gave a thumbs-up as you signaled to change lanes.

"You could feel it at the Capitol. Congress passed a $40 billion emergency appropriation by an unprecedented unanimous vote. And when Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott and his Democratic counterpart Tom Daschle approached the microphones, Lott had his arm around and his hand on the shoulder of his old political foe."

We all came together that day because we realized we were all in this together, that any one of us could have been in those buildings or on those planes.

So all over America, people went back to work with purpose. Military, firefighters and police and rescue teams risked their lives for no reason or reward but to save the innocent. Partisanship faded, and we set about in common cause.

We can only be saddened to look across America today and realize we have let so much of that slip away. In the days after 9/11, we found what Americans always find in crisis, a way to come together.

That ability, that special something we found that day, is still deeply ingrained in the American character, and somehow we must find it again.

Nine-eleven was a dark day. But the time after became one of our finest hours, because we put aside those things that set us apart, and recognized that for all our differences, we were - first of all - all Americans.

That's something we should remember, on good days and bad.

  • Bob Schieffer On Twitter»

    Bob Schieffer is a CBS News political contributor and former anchor of "Face The Nation," which he moderated for 24 years before retiring in 2015.