Today marks the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Those of us who lived through it know full well what happened that day. We remember the crystal clear blue sky that morning, with all of us going about our normal day, when in a split second, life in the United States and the world changed forever.
But as I learned over the years, much to my dismay, the majority of children who did not experience that day have no emotional connection to it. They see it as the day some planes were taken over by bad people who crashed them into buildings causing the twin towers to fall. And while we cannot expect them to truly ever feel what we did on that Tuesday morning, we must try and preserve the impact. The horror. The heroism. The confusion. The disbelief. The anger.
I know not everyone agrees with me about remembering this day and that is fine. I know there are parents who do not even tell their children about it because it is so disturbing but you cannot hide history. I know there are schools who sugarcoat what happened because they do not want to scare students or make them feel unsafe. I think this is wrong. We MUST remember. We MUST acknowledge what happened that day and how we came together as a nation and how we helped each other and how we we rebuilt the greatest city in the world. Students today should know about the amazing heroism and sacrifice of those aboard Flight 93. They should know about the rescues that occurred at the Pentagon. They should know. They must know.
To those of you who don’t remember – September 11, 2001 was one of the worst days in American history. You have heard that before. It was so much more than just two buildings getting knocked down. People were in those buildings. People were in their offices. People were riding in elevators. People were in restaurants and at the front desks greeting visitors and employees as they arrived for work. There were firemen, policemen and first-responders who went into the buildings to assess the damage and see if they could save others. I often wonder how many of those firemen knew the extent of the damage and yet, went into harm’s way anyway knowing their own lives would very possibly end.
It was more than just planes crashing into buildings and into a field in Pennsylvania. Innocent passengers were on those flights. Pilots and stewardesses with families and friends were in those seats. The heroism on the passengers on Flight 93 is something that should be celebrated, as they likely saved the lives of hundreds of others. What did it feel like for them to willingly give their lives to save others? What about those at the Pentagon? The hub of our military operations. One of the “safest” places in Washington. When I heard the Pentagon also got hit, my legs felt weak and a feeling of despair and terror washed over me as I realized our country was under attack, not just New York.
More importantly, I hope that each person reading this never has to experience what we did on that day, but for those who don’t remember…
Look at the pictures and video footage of that day- our eyes were wide with horror, confusion, helplessness and disbelief. As we closed our eyes to try and sleep that night, our minds replayed images of people running away from the buildings, of heroes running into the buildings, of people crying, of dust and debris all over New York, of papers from offices flying in the air, of the hole in the ground left by the plane in PA, of the fires at the Pentagon.
Listen to the stories of those who were in New York and Washington, of the cell phone calls made to loved ones from the towers or from Flight 93 – our ears were filled with the sounds of our countrymen in distress, of those who knew they were doing to die, of buildings collapsing with people still in them, of sirens, of voices yelling directions. And the most poignant for me – the wails and cries of despair. They hurt my heart to this day.
Touch a friend or person you love – strangers were grabbing and hugging each other as they went through the worst experience of their lives. They helped each other to safety. We hugged our friends, families and coworkers, yearning for some type of comfort.
We must remember.
Americans rebounded, as we always do, from that devastating and cowardly attack on the innocent and on our country. But we are Americans. We are resilient. We are compassionate. We are determined. We are strong.
But on that day, we did not feel strong. We felt despair, we felt horror, we felt helpless, we felt confusion, we felt shock, we felt anger. We felt vengeful. So for those who don’t remember, I beg you to try. We cannot forget.
The songs below are three great summations of how many of us felt that day. I encourage everyone to listen to them. I chose the live versions of all three songs so that you can see and feel the emotion these men put into them. May God bless all of those who perished that day, all those who lost loved ones, and all of our troops past and present defending our freedom. We will never forget.