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Friday, September 11, 2009

On 9/11 and Remembrance

Where were you on September 11, 2001 when you heard that a plane had hit the north tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 am EDT? Were you at work? Were you at home? Were you traveling? Did you wake up to the news?

Were you watching the television when Flight 175 hit the south tower just seventeen minutes later? Had you already realized that something was going on or was that your first sign that the attack was organized?

How did you spend the 35 minutes until the Pentagon was hit? One hundred twenty-five people died in the Pentagon and another 64 people on Flight 77. Did you find a fierce joy that the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 fought back and the hijackers’ plans were foiled? Did you then mourn for the loss of the heroic passengers?

Did you see the people choosing to jump from the doomed towers? Once the television stations realized that the falling objects were not debris, but people, they didn’t repeat those clips. Still one picture was printed in many papers and became known as "The Falling Man". The apparent calmness of the man as he falls is in stark contrast to the chaos around him. Did you wonder what you would choose to do in those circumstances and feel your throat tighten with emotion as you contemplated the choice?

In less than two hours, the towers were both gone. Did you gasp in shock as they fell? Did you cry out “No!” and reach out to try to stop it, knowing the gesture was futile?

Did you even watch it in real time? Or were you on alert, preparing to defend your country from yet another attack?

That day, did you think about what you could do for your country? Did you donate blood, hoping to help the survivors? Were you one of the rescue workers and emergency personnel from across the country who left for New York City in order to help? Were you one of the many people who volunteered to serve in the armed forces, even if you were too old or unfit for active service?

Did you go home to your family that night and seek solace in the fact they were there and alive? Or did you go home and mourn for a friend or family member lost?

Were you horrified at the snuffing out of 2,974 lives (not counting the 19 hijackers)? Did you mourn for all of the families torn asunder, the children who would never see a loved parent, the parents who were now going to outlive a child, the spouses who would never grow old with their love? Did you grieve even as you saluted the 411 emergency workers who died while they were trying to save others?

Eight years have passed, enough to have some distance from the immediate passions of the day. How should we react to this anniversary?

Do not forget the people who died. They and their families deserve to be remembered.

Do not forget your family. Resolve to spend time with them. A second per life lost that day is 49 minutes and 34 seconds. Surely we can spare that much time in our busy lives to be with our loved ones each day.

Do not forget the people in the military who stand between us and those who would repeat the acts of that day and would try to destroy all that the United States stands for. The armed forces stand ready to protect this grand country. Their members deserve our thanks as do the families who sacrifice as well.

"Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve." -- President George W. Bush

Let us not forget, but keep our resolve, tempered by the power of our memories of that horrific day.

Remembrance is what the living owe on this day.