The two candidates paused to appear together at Ground Zero in New York as a show of unity.
Sadly, it appears that's all it is. A show.
Why does it take such a catastrophe to bring Americans together? And even then, it's only temporary.
Why can't the two camps suspend their attacks on each other permanently, and spend the remaining weeks of the presidential campaign telling us their competing visions for America and what they'll do to achieve them?
In the days and weeks following 9-11, Americans wept, prayed and waved flags on street corners and honked their car horns in support of the country. Members of Congress from both parties shared the Capitol steps and sang and pledged their patriotism.
Now, at times it seems we're tearing ourselves apart in bitter partisan, race and even gender squabbles.
We risk becoming our own worst enemy.
Thursday night, Obama and McCain made another joint appearance at Columbia University in New York -- not to debate, but to share their thoughts and feelings on public service.
Public service. It seems such a quaint notion in a day and age in which a vice-presidential nominee's personal and family life are being turned upside down and criticized and lied about in the most despicable ways. Why would anyone subject herself to that? Aren't we making public service nearly intolerable?
We're not calling for our leaders to take to the Capitol steps again and sing Kumbaya. All we're asking for is civility and leadership and the ability to work with those you disagree with.
We're looking for statesmen.
We've got a ton of problems to solve (see editorial above). They'll take every bit of wisdom and unity of purpose we can muster. We owe our children no less.
Barack Obama and John McCain are two gentlemen. Their campaigns do not reflect that. The two men need to de-fang their political pit vipers and get back on message.
We call on both men to adopt a Sept. 11 approach every day. Fight for your values, argue all day and all night until Nov. 4, show us how you'll do things differently from each other.
But for heaven's sake, and for ours, stop the rancor that's poisoning public service and distracting us from the tasks at hand.