Never Forget

My wife does a better job of remembering holidays than I do.  Not that I don’t want to remember them, but she is just better at it.  One holiday that I never let pass by is September 11.  Perhaps it is because it is burned into my memory like the day President Kennedy was assassinated.  I know where I was and what I was doing when we learned about the planes flying into the Twin Towers in New York City.  I was on the twenty-first floor of a high rise building in downtown Atlanta discussing whether or not such an event could happen there.  With the world’s busiest airport just ten miles away, some were fearful that terrorist could stage a hijacking there also.  Obviously, that did not happen, but the discussions were real and serious.

For holidays that involve national historical events we always place American Flags out to commemorate those who sacrificed for our freedoms.  Veterans Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Flag Day, Washington’s Birthday, and Patriot’s Day.  We hit them all with a flag display in the front yard or on the street.  We don’t do anything fancy, just a row of flags to remind people that this is a special
day.  It is this last one, Patriot’s Day, which seems to throw people off and it is one we should remember easily.  It is not an official holiday with a day off work, but it is just as important.

In the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade center there was a wave of patriotism that swept through us all and the phrase “Never Forget” rang out everywhere.  We even went to war soon thereafter and many lost their lives in the
pursuit of those responsible.  September 11 should be burned into our memories as much as Pearl Harbor Day (December 7), or Armistice Day now known as Veterans Day (November 11), or VE Day (May 8). The reason we should especially remember September 11 is that most of us were alive.  

Unlike VE Day or Pearl Harbor Day that were lived by our parents, this is one of ours.  Anyone who is 35 years of age or older should know about the events of September 11, 2001.  Younger than that and you were either not born or too young for it to have made a real impact, except for children of victims.  That means that about 60% of the population in the United States was old enough to understand what was happening and the significance for our nation.  We were old enough to experience the changes in security and many other aspects of our lives.  Before September 11 when you went on an airline trip you just went.  At airports there were no lines, no security checkpoints, no checking identification, and no real luggage checks of any significance.  There were no security cameras on every street corner, no NSA, and we were more trusting of immigrants and our next-door neighbors.  Each of these changes should be a small reminder of September 11, 2001.

But some good things came from all this that have lasted.  The Tunnels to Towers Foundation is just one of the many spawned from the destruction, and one of our favorites.  The memorials built in New York City to commemorate the victims and survivors.  The replacement of the lost buildings, especially the Freedom Tower.  Some of our favorite patriotic music also came from this event.  “Have You Forgotten” by Darryl Worley, “When the World Stopped Turning” by Alan Jackson,
“Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly” by Aaron Tippin, and my favorite
“Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” by Toby Keith.

This morning I was walking the dogs, and when a young couple asked me “We love the flags, but why do you have them out?” I knew that September 11 is starting to just become part of the fabric of the nation.  Maybe that is as it should be after twenty-one years.  Osama Bin Laden has been eliminated, the troops are home from the Middle East, and we have many domestic issues like inflation to deal with that are right in our faces every day.  But events like 9/11 are part of the fabric of our flag, just as much as Bunker Hill, San Juan Hill, or Iwo Jima.  The fabric of our flag also includes achievements like landing on the moon, breaking the sound barrier, and making the first microchip.  It is who we are as Americans, and there will always be those who try to tear us down for our achievements.

Time moves on, but for our collective consciousness, and to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, it is important that we not forget such events and the human toll.  The September 11 terrorist attack was the deadliest in world history.  With almost 3,000 killed and another 25,000 injured it should be emblazoned in our minds.  For the families of victims September 11 is as real today as it was twenty-one years ago, and honoring them is why we remember.  September 11, 2001 is now one more long fiber in the cloth that makes up the flag of our nation.