Never forget America’s loss of innocence

For more information about the 2011 Freedom Fair, visit

The morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I was at work. My pager was going off, and still I couldn’t bring myself to return to my desk. I stood there, transfixed on the scene before me. Every screen in the Harrah’s Reno sports book was rotating video of the day America was changed forever. Mere minutes after the second plane struck the World Trade Center, there it was in front of me. In full color on screens that were three stories tall, the horrors played over and over for all to see.

The hotel guests were frantic. Our switchboard was jammed with requests for early checkout, plane reservations and valet requests. The staff could barely cope as it was, and then President Bush grounded all air traffic.

Pensive fear became absolute bedlam. Hotel guests streamed steadily into the gilded lobby, while casino high rollers screamed at their casino hosts because they couldn’t get a flight out of Reno. All we could do was helplessly shrug our shoulders. America was paralyzed, and there wasn’t a damned thing anyone could do about it, no matter how much influence people thought they had.

Much has changed since that historic morning. Americans have gotten back to their lives. The wounds are now faint scars. Small children who were crying at the frightful sight of American planes filled with innocent passengers crashing into symbols of American excellence are now old enough to drive. We were rocked to our very core, but we have adjusted. We are complacent with removing our shoes prior to getting on an airliner, and what’s worse, too many Americans don’t even remember why.

Cathie Lynn Profant, a political activist, is very passionate about the importance of remembering the terrorist attacks 10 years later: “Look in our faces and deep into our eyes. We are a people not destroyed but rather brought together in unity by an act of terrorism against us. We can never forget how vulnerable we were on the day America’s innocence died.”

Cathie is absolutely right. The raw emotion of 9/11 has faded into the sands of time, but the lessons learned should still burn brightly in the forefront of our minds. This is why a local group of community activists decided to do something about it. “Last June I was sitting with a couple friends, and we decided to host a public ‘day of fun’ since the Nevada State Fair had been cancelled,” said Carole Fineberg, organizer of Reno’s 9/11 tribute festival, the Freedom Fair. “When we discovered there was nothing planned for the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I was shocked.” From there, the Freedom Fair was born.

They are planning to have patriotic music, local vendors for food and souvenirs, cameo appearances from Kate Marshall, Mark Amodei and other local dignitaries. Paiute tribal members will be performing the opening ceremonies, and the whole thing will culminate at dusk with a candlelight vigil to honor the fallen.

I am encouraged that Reno will not be letting the 10th anniversary of the worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor go unnoticed. Our younger generations need to learn how important that day is to the very fabric of our society. They must get the opportunity to experience the unity and patriotism that brought our country together in the days after 9/11.

Today, our country is much too divided. Hopefully, this anniversary will help to unite us once again. We will never be the way we were, only the way we can be as we look toward the future. With a nod to the musical Wicked, I don’t know if America has been changed for the better, but America has been changed for good.

Never forget.