You have your assignment

Put thoughts into words for grandchildren to read

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— Unavoidably, and appropriately, all of us will spend a portion of this week trying to find meaning in the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

I find that even with the passage of a year, the horrifying sights of that morning still have a sense of unreality attached to them.

Did those gleaming aircraft really disappear into those buildings in balls of flame?

I guess they did.

I'm going to share with you one of the strangest aspects of working in a newsroom.

Here it is: Your best days at work almost always involve human suffering.

The greatest satisfaction that can come from working at a newspaper is when an entire staff, confronted with a crisis, redoubles its collective efforts and produces work it wasn't aware it was capable of.

In my experience, this sensation is almost always derived from a tragedy.

And it almost always produces an adrenaline high.

It can come from something as mundane as a serious chimney fire, it can be produced by the Good News Building in downtown Steamboat Springs blowing up during a noon hour in February 1994.

Or it can result from mind-boggling acts of terrorism played out thousands of miles away from home.

At the Steamboat Pilot & Today, under the guidance of Editor Scott Stanford, we spent Sept. 11, 2001, producing the first "Extra" afternoon edition in the history of the newspaper.

We did a pretty good job.

And not surprisingly, the day produced a strange mixture of exhilaration, remorse and horror.

My estimation is that none of us will fully grasp the implications of Sept. 11, 2001, for decades.

Perhaps, with the hindsight of history, we'll come to see the actions triggered by one megalomaniac were the most dramatic moments in a search for stability that has consumed generations in an entire region of the world.

Because 9/11 is almost too much for us to come to grips with, I have a couple of homework assignments for you.

The first is to go to Bud Werner Memorial Library and pick up the Sept. 5 issue of a magazine you may not have read before. It's a British magazine called "The Economist." It contains a thoughtful opinion peace on what has, and what has not, changed in the world since last Sept. 11.

Actually, I'm assigning you to make a habit of reading "The Economist." Not so much for its excellent articles on international finance, but for the articles dealing with international events. They come from periodicals published all over the world and provide insights into how people in other nations view America. Insights that are difficult to acquire by other means.

One of the disturbing themes that has emerged since 9/11 is mounting criticism of the United States for acting as an international bully. There is a natural tendency for us to protest, "But you don't understand us!"

As much as we might feel that criticism is unjustified, it's important that we don't shut it out entirely. If 9/11 doesn't teach us to tune in to international opinion, an opportunity will have been lost.

The second assignment is to sit down as I am today, and write out some of your thoughts about the events of last September. Encourage your family members to do the same. Collect them in an archival box with copies of newspapers and magazines from that fateful week.

Label the box "Time Capsule." And before you put the lid on the box, put a little American flag on top of the stack.

Tom Ross is a longtime Steamboat resident. His column is published every Monday in Steamboat Today.

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