Every time the calendar has turned to September in the years since September 11, 2001, it has been impossible to avoid something turning inside me like my intestines being twisted in a knot. There is also a feeling of wanting to keep August forever, not like a kid hoping never to go back to school, but more as an adult who knows the heft of 9-11 is never ending.
Today my sister goes back to Ground Zero to mark the 14th anniversary of 9-11 along with thousands of other family members and friends who lost someone on 9-11. Over the years she has been brave beyond imagination even though 9-11 shattered her but did not break her. Steve left that morning to go to the firehouse and never came back again, and hers is the story that can be retold countless times by all those who went through the same thing.
The odd thing for those of us who lived through that day is the clarity of it in memory – I can recall almost every second of it. I cannot say that about any other day in my life except my wedding day, and even that has moments that went by so quickly as in a blur. Each minute of the first 9-11 seemed to go in slow motion, even as I recall watching the footage again and again of the planes hitting the buildings and subsequently seeing them collapse. Seeing that happen even once is devastating, but the surreal repetition embedded those images inside me and has rendered me never the same.
For New Yorkers this was more than a gut punch – it crushed our skyline and damaged our hearts, but we are resilient and struggled through some of the darkest days that turned into weeks and months and years. Our valiant NYPD, FDNY, EMS, and all the other workers gave us strength as they pushed on as teams tried to find survivors and then grimly recover bodies.
America suffered collectively that day, and one can say that 9-11 dragged us down to the nadir of humanity. Many of us lost our way, wanting to fight back and hurt without thinking. Some of us didn’t want to go on because life seemed not worth living. A veritable shroud dropped upon us, and we mourned and grieved and struggled. Inevitably politicians from all sides would seek to use the attacks for partisan purposes instead of wanting to help our nation recover properly, and the move toward war was inevitable as the hearts beating in our chests.
All these years later there is still heartache and grief, and ceremonies are properly held to honor those who died and those who served. No one who lived through that time can forget the images of first responders going up while everyone else was coming down out of the towers. These brave people are reason enough for us to always mark this day with ceremonies to commemorate their dedication and sacrifice.
Still, on the streets of New York City today there were those who do not like the ceremony being held at Ground Zero. They complained that it’s bad for business, that it is time to get over it, time to move on. These are not evil people – they just feel that time should heal and that now we should get on with it and stop all the fuss. I would assume that those people did not lose a friend or loved one that fateful day.
Sadly, Pearl Harbor Day – December 7, 1941, has become lost for the most part. What used to be a “day that will live in infamy,” as noted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, now is a day remembered for a few moments for some, and not at all by many. A day that changed the course of history has been relegated to the dustbin of memory.
Perhaps that should be expected as friends and family of those lost pass away, and no one is left to tell what it was like to live through it. One day that could happen to 9-11, but there have to be those who come after us who make certain that never occurs.
9-11 is not about any political party or warmongers or anti-war posturing. 9-11 is a day of national mourning, and it should be respected and marked for generations to come. It is not just about saying “We Will Never Forget” but more that “We Will Always Remember,” and will always honor and will always pass the torch.
It is up to all Americans to make this happen – to honor those lost on that first 9-11. The day must be marked significantly with ceremonies that include reading the names of those lost. This is the dignity every one of them deserves, and we must do this now and forevermore.
Photo credits: reuters, nbcny.com, telegraph.co.uk, christianpost.com
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