Thursday will be a somber, tearful day for America. Or, at least, it should be.

The long-delayed, controversy-laden Sept. 11 Memorial Museum finally will conduct its ceremonial opening at ground zero in Manhattan. The museum opens to the public next week, but Thursday's gathering will include President Barack Obama, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and many other dignitaries.

The museum commemorates that horrific day in 2001 that not one, but two airliners hijacked by Islamic fundamentalist terrorists crashed into New York's Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. The impacts eventually caused both 100-story-plus structures to fall, killing thousands trapped inside as well as those brave souls trying to rescue them.

As we all know, another hijacked plane that day crashed into the Pentagon, killing nearly 200, and still another, which was on its way to the U.S. Capitol, was brought down in a Pennsylvania field by heroic passengers who refused to be party to a terrorist plot.

Much like the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor or the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, anyone old enough to remember that day, will never forget it.

We all remember where we were when we heard the news. Most of us sat rapt before a television screen somewhere as the carnage unfolded.

Sept. 11, 2001, was a day that changed us -- forever.

It shocked us, but it didn't take long for our shock to turn to anger.


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The anger manifested through a war in Afghanistan, a so-called War on Terror and, later, an ill-advised, derivative war in Iraq. It was the day that Americans came face-to-face with the undeniable truth that there are people in this world who hate us so much that they would do anything to hurt us.

The words al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden instantly became household terms synonymous with evil.

The even deeper collateral damage is that it has changed the way we operate as a nation. Our Congress passed the USA Patriot Act, which attempted to sacrifice freedoms for greater security, we still operate a prison camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for people suspected of being terrorists, our covert agencies have become much more abusive in interrogation techniques, just to name a few changes.

Despite those events and the rancor they have caused within, we remain standing as a nation and this museum is a tribute to that and to the people who died that day.

Much like the Holocaust Museum in Washington or the Pearl Harbor exhibit in Hawaii, this one will pack quite a punch for those Americans who enter it. But to the extent that it never allows us forget what happened that day and the people who died, we see that as a good thing.