The 9-11 Memorial Ceremony at Ground Zero must continue to be held every year. As I watched the ceremony this morning, the reason was more salient than ever. This year there were increasing numbers of young people reading the names of those lost. They are so young – many of whom were not even born when the terrorist attacks took place – and are heartbreaking reminders that the ceremony remains a solemn and sacred link connecting those who died to their families and to the world.
There is something about saying the names of those who died for all to hear that confirms that those lost existed and had lives that mattered to those who loved and knew them. It also reminds the world of their devastating loss as it takes hours to read all of them, emphasizing the enormity of the number of those murdered on that horrific day.
Many of the speakers reading the names are young, and while it makes me cry it also makes me smile because a new generation of people are being reminded about what happened that day. This “reading of the names” is crucial for them because it connects loved ones they never met but know about because of accounts told as part of family history. It makes it all real for them in a way that stories, pictures, and videos cannot.
So many of the younger readers say something like: “Although I’ve never met you….” or “I was only a baby when you died…” In their youthful voices there is a sense that the tragedy of the day will never be forgotten, that because of them generations to come will still know about what happened on September 11, 2001, and how it impacted not only the families and friends of those lost but our city, our country, and the world.
This is why the Ground Zero Memorial Ceremony must be held every year for perpetuity. It cannot slip into the ether like December 7, 1941, when the United States was forced to confront what was happening in the world with the attack on Pearl Harbor. Sadly, each year I rarely hear a word about that “day of infamy” as President Franklin D. Roosevelt labeled it. How could it be that the day when so many Americans were slaughtered in an unprovoked attack is not even mentioned? Now it seems to be an event that is mostly forgotten.
My children always talk about Uncle Steve, a firefighter who died when the South Tower came down. We have kept his memory alive all these years by talking about him, sharing photos, seeing him in the video at our wedding, and watching the ceremony every year. They always say that they never met their uncle but feel like they know him. For my kids and all the friends and relatives of all those innocent victims who died that day, they need this day more each year not less. My sister goes over to the ceremony every year, and it never gets easier, but in a way that’s the whole point.
Every one of those names read are connected to people who had careers, hobbies, and friends and family that still miss them. The 911 Memorial Ceremony at Ground Zero gives a tangible way to honor those lost, many of whom don’t have graves to visit. They can come at other times to grieve, but on this day we grieve with the world. By passing on this aching loss to the next generation and then on to the next and the next will not only honor those lost but also keep the flame of their memory alive forevermore.