Waking up that September morning in 2001, no one could have imagined where events would take this country.

Or the cost.

Eighteen years later, with more than 5,000 troops still in Iraq and a recent vow to "stay as long as needed," and with 14,000 troops in Afghanistan and plans to end our nation's longest war stalled, answers remain elusive.

Nearly 3,000 people died in coordinated attacks that morning, 6,000 others were injured. Hundreds more, many of them first responders, have died since of cancer and respiratory problems.

About 7,000 men and women have died in the war on terror, and 53,000 others have been wounded, bringing the total since the attack to 10,000 dead, and nearly 60,000 injured.

As Americans, we will continue — and should continue — to wrestle with the way forward, our role in the world, our responsibility to other nations and to our children.

We can disagree, but today we remind ourselves that we are Americans first, and we honor Americans of all stripes — Democrat and Republican, black and white, gay, straight, Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Muslim, atheist — who died that day, and in the war since.

Put aside politics, and instead put out your flag, and if you can, fly it half-staff.

• Attend the 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony at noon today at the Freedom Flag Plaza on the Oval at Missouri Southern State University.

• Join the Carthage Senior Center as it hosts its fifth annual 9/11 luncheon and ceremony to honor police officers, firefighters and first responders that serve our communities at 11 a.m. at 404 E. Third St. in Carthage.

• Go to Joplin’s VFW Post 534 for a 9/11 remembrance and reflection event, 110 Veterans Way. It begins with an opening prayer at 7:30 a.m., followed by a reading of the names of those who died and those who gave their lives to save others. A brief moment of silence is planned at the moment of each of the four attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Area residents are invited to stop by throughout the day. Chairs will be provided for guests. People interested in reading a portion of the names will be welcome to do so.

• Attend the remembrance ceremony at Comet’s Park in Carterville. It begins at 11 a.m. at the intersection of Route 66 and Fountain Street.

Waking up today, no one can know where the attack 18 years ago, and the war, will lead.

Or the cost.

But we do know that whatever the path, it will be easier to get there if we remember that more unites us than divides us, and whatever the cost, it will be easier to bear together.

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