For the past 11 years on this date, we’ve all heard, spoke, typed a now familiar refrain: “Never Forget!”
What we must never forget, of course, are the attacks against our nation on September 11th, 2001 by radical Islamists bringing their war against western civilization right to our doorsteps.
Today, I heard a couple of different things that made me realize just how difficult a proposition that it is to actually “never forget” something, even something as big as 9/11.
First, on my drive in to work this morning, I was listening to a radio station when the usual cast of morning show hosts began to discuss the date, and to go over their memories of that Tuesday morning.
Those of us who experienced it can remember clearly what an absolutely gorgeous, perfect morning it was – clear skies and comfortable temperatures. The kind of day you give thanks to the Lord for blessing us with.
Then everything changed, in a span of just 17 minutes between 8:46 and 9:03 am, when those sons of Muhammad crashed a pair of hijacked airliners into each of the iconic Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on the waterfront of Manhattan island in New York City. Just over a half hour later, a 3rd airliner crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a 4th crashed into a field in Pennsylvania a half hour after that.
The United States of America was under attack on our own shores for the first time in 60 years, the first time since World War II, when the Japanese decimated the American naval fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The ensuing chaos, the grounding of flights across the nation’s skies, the collapse of the iconic towers, the growing numbers of people lost and killed. Firefighters, police officers, other rescue workers, and regular citizens putting their lives on the line to attempt and effect rescues.
How could anyone who lived through it ever forget all that.
Ah, but there’s the rub. You see, not everyone alive today lived through that, at least not in their conscious memories. Those radio hosts that I was listening to brought up that their kids, now in the upper levels of elementary school and in junior high, had no direct memory of 9/11 whatsoever. Sure, they saw films on TV, but for these kids, and for many kids today of any high school age, the experience is not what adults of that day remember, if these kids and teens recall anything of it first-hand.
The second thing that happened today was that my brother complained that there had been no widespread, organized “Moment of Silence” at 9:37 am, the time that the 3rd plane had exploded into the side of the Pentagon, and a moment that had been memorialized each year since.
My explanation didn’t seem to satisfy him, but I believe it is no less true. We are not going to, as a nation, “Never Forget” – at least we are not going to remember with the raw emotion that people who are now in their mid-20’s and older feel.
My brother felt that “poor planning may have played a role” in this particular instance, and he may be right. But that only serves to highlight my point – there would have been no such “poor planning” in 2002 or 2005 or 2008.
The further we get away from that day, the more people are going to not build every emotional remembrance into their planning, and the more people who experienced it at all are simply going to have left this earth.
For kids today, their memory of 9/11 is what mine would be of the Kennedy assassination – nothing. Sure, I was alive when JFK was killed in Dallas in November 1963, but I was days shy of my 2nd birthday. There was no way that I was going to have any memory of that event, even though it was on our home television daily, and even though every fabric of society around me was affected deeply. I learned of and know about the events from TV, movie, and book accounts. I know of the event as history. That’s how today’s kids know 9/11, as history.
So while we will not forget the events of the morning of September 11th, 2001 for a long time, and those of us who actually lived it will carry it with us for decades still to come, some for maybe as much as 2/3 of a century, the fact is that one day 9/11 will be to citizens of the United States what Pearl Harbor is to us today – history. Sure, we will keep on saying that we must “Never Forget”, but the raw emotional power of the moment will be gone.
The real challenge is to make sure that Americans of any age and time never forget the important turning points in our nation’s history, from Lexington & Concord to Gettysburg, from Pearl Harbor to Dallas, from Memphis to Shanksville.
We need to ensure that even as the emotion passes, and as every person alive that day passes, that the people of the United States somehow learn to “Never Forget” the events that have shaped the very fabric of the greatest nation that God has ever blessed.