I grew up and went to school in the shadow of the World Trade Center. The morning of September 11, 2001 is etched into my soul, now and forever. They blew up the place I called home.

The cataclysmic events of that day 19 years ago are saluted today not only in New York, but throughout our nation.  

Time passes though, and history is short-lived. New shocks shake our foundation. The average student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, tragic victims of the Parkland massacre, were born three years after 9/11.  

Each generation has an event or an episode that shapes our lives. If you are 70, as I now am, it was 9/11.  

September 11, 2001, when I was a publisher of the Express Gay News of South Florida, will be the day I recall. Attached to this column was the picture we ran in the newspaper that day.  

If you were my dad, who landed on Utah Beach on D-Day in June of 1944, it was the bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941.  

As the publisher of SFGN, we have had to deal with the PULSE Massacre and the Parkland shootings. These are events etched into a younger generation’s memory.  

This year presents another episode that will shake the foundation of our nation’s soul. It will have no date, but rather a year. 2020 will go down in our history as one we would rather forget.  

Like with Sept. 11, in the face of COVID’s challenges, we have found special heroes, Americans who have made a difference. On that fateful day in 2001, the first responders were firemen and policemen charging into unknown dangers.  

This year, nurses, doctors, and hospital personnel continue to work in environments that expose them to risk. They have met their duty with grace and honor.  

We all do what we can when we can where we can. In the face of a pandemic that is costing us lives as well as livelihoods, SFGN has continued to publish our newspaper for our community. Our duty is to report the news, and dutifully, we have.  

Sadly, we have had to report on lost lives, prematurely snuffed out by this deadly virus. It is with us still today. We report on these statistics weekly.  

Suffer not Coronavirus Fatigue. Be cautious. Be careful. It can be deadly, whether you are 20 or 70. The virus still has no vaccine, no miracle cure, no Clorox you can gargle it away with.  

Just as Parkland students led a nationwide crusade against gun violence, we have had heroes of our own proudly rise to the pandemic.  

Our Fund started a foundation to help even more than it already had. Community leaders initiated free food deliveries. Nonprofits have provided virtual forums. We are adapting, changing our directions, but maintaining our course.  

Changes initiated this year will have a lasting impact on future endeavors, from telehealth to zoom meetings. Even today, survivors of 9/11 fight a crusade to ensure that those who suffered from asbestos poisoning then be compensated now.  

When it looked like Apollo 13 might not make it back from space decades ago, many technicians at the Space Center in Houston were scared that loss could sabotage America’s space initiatives.  

One person spoke up prophetically, though. He said it would become NASA’s “finest hour.” It turned out to be such. That is the way we must look at today’s challenges.  

Those of us who lived in the shadow of the World Trade Center will never forget those moments. We will also remember how America united as a nation.  

In 2001, our former president, George Bush, rose to the occasion. This is not so today. We have become the Disunited States of Pandemica, in no small part to deceptiveness and deceit engineered from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  

Newspapers are messengers. This is a year where we have had to deliver solemnity and sadness. We must deliver the tragedies as well as the triumphs. But don’t let it overwhelm you. Every storm runs out of rain.  

No matter how dire the circumstance, the human spirit rises like a phoenix. From the ashes of despair, there will come new opportunities for us to accomplish and achieve. Our time will come again. 

The most beautiful rose bushes have thorns. One day, we will all be back in Ronnie Larsen’s theater watching penises come out of a curtain.  

Our community is led by advocates for equality, champions for social justice; good and decent citizens rising to the occasion. Do your part when you can and where you can.  

On September 11, 2001, there were many heroes. One was a gay man named Mark Bingham, who helped disarm the last set of terrorists trying to steer a plane into the U.S. Capitol.  

Bingham called upon a group of passengers to storm the cockpit, with the memorable words, “Let’s roll.”  

May you find that purpose and presence in your own lives during these difficult days. Help make the sun shine again.