Unless you are living deep in the woods without a television or a calendar, living off of wild mushrooms and greens for which you forage yourself, you know that Saturday was the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Around the world, we all remembered that sad, sad day 20 years ago. We know where we were when we first heard the news that an airplane had flown into the World Trade Center. We recall the fear deep within our guts that we felt when we heard that the second plane flew into the other tower. The United States was under attack.
Bill’s daughter Heather lived in New York City at that time. She didn’t work in the financial district, but she did work in lower downtown Manhattan. Thankfully, she let us know as soon as she could that she was safe. The world around her was crazy, but thank the good Lord, the worst thing that happened to her was that she had to walk home all the way from lower Manhattan to her apartment located about as far north as you could go and still be in Manhattan. Smoke and ash filled the city. So did fear and broken hearts.
We will always remember. Never forget. Words like that were bandied around aplenty on Saturday. And, God willing, we will never forget. Except for those below the age of 18 who were just coming into the world. The day our oldest grandchild was born, those of us who had been in the waiting room at the hospital (first grandchild; what can I say?) who finally were told the baby had come and we were invited in to see her began running towards the delivery room. As we ran past the television, the United States had just dropped its first bombs on Iraq, in retaliation for 9/11. While Addie might have cried that day, it wasn’t for the war in Iraq.
To those of us who remember that day as if it was yesterday, it’s hard to imagine that our kids and grandkids only know about it as an historical event about which they learn in their American History class. While they recognize that it was an awful day in our history, they look at it the same way I look at D-Day or Pearl Harbor, two other awful days in our history. They were both significant, but that’s all they are to me: an historical event.
Our grandkids are mostly unaware of many of the things that were lost that day. They are well aware of the loss of human life. They know that 9/11 led to two wars in which many people have died or been seriously — even permanently — injured. But do they know that there was a time when we could walk our loved ones all the way to the gates at the airport to say goodbye? Can they imagine that we got on an airplane without going through a thorough security check, often including patdowns? Sporting events and concerts and amusement parks were all accessible without someone going through your picnic basket to look for bombs. Can they even imagine a time when you wouldn’t give a second thought to a backpack sitting alone.
We lost a lot on 9/11, and we rightly continue to honor those who never got a chance to say goodbye to friends or family that day. We still pray for the living who were impacted by the terrorists. We really must never forget the terrorists attacks, but even more important, we must remember how we came together to honor many and fight our fears. And we need to try to teach our children what that day — and the ensuing days — were really like.