As the world marks the first anniversary of the horrific terrorist attacks on the United States last Sept. 11, most people will remember the utter disbelief they felt while scenes of the destruction and chaos in New York City, Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania unfolded on their TV screens.
It was surreal then—and remains so today.

But it was all too real, and whether we want to admit it or not, the world did change in the aftermath of those attacks. The only question is whether that change will be for the best—or herald a long period of conflict and bloodshed that may consume us all.

Only history can judge that years from now.

If there can be a plus side to the Sept. 11 attacks, it is the renewed appreciation, particularly in North America, of the freedoms and values we enjoy. And as such, the parallel realization of the price that must be paid to protect them—a price four Canadian families paid with their sons in faraway Afghanistan.

There’s the knowledge now, too, that we are all vulnerable to the actions of terrorists no matter where we may live—and that a revamped vigilance was long overdue to keep us safe.

For many, there’s been a rekindling of spiritually, or at the very least a graphic reminder of how fragile life is—and that no one ever can know just what a new day will bring.

But equally important, Sept. 11 reminded us that even in the face of such catastrophic circumstances, the human spirit still shines through—whether it was firefighters racing up the stairs of the World Trade Center to rescue people, the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 who battled the hijackers and ultimately sacrificed their own lives to save countless others, or the outpouring of grief, support, and help that centred on “Ground Zero.”

The images of 9/11 are still so vivid in our all minds. But even though the horror eventually will fade in the coming years, let’s never forget the victims, the heroes, and our own resolve to lead better lives.

And that the war on terrorism must never waver—no matter where it is fought and what price must be paid.