No day shall erase you from the memory of time.Virgil
These words of the Roman poet Virgil stand out on a blue mosaic wall at the National September 11th Memorial and Museum in New York City. It looms, larger than life, like an epitaph to so many lost and a promise to never forget. To never forget each an every soul lost. To never forget that there are forces of evil in this world that would hurt anyone to make themselves known and push their agenda forward. To never forget that on a beautiful Tuesday morning 20 years ago 8 EMT/paramedics, 60 police officers, 343 firefighters, and 2514 civilians left their homes to catch a flight, go to work, or simply do what they did every day…yet…on this fateful day they would never return home. Why? Because an ideology had declared war on America and Americans. On that day 3000 people stood in the place of every single one of us that has the privilege to be a citizen of the United States of America. Because on that day the men who executed the terrorist attacks that took down iconic buildings, penetrated the very hub of our national security, and attempted to breach our capital didn’t care which Americans they killed because in truth, they wanted to kill all Americans.
We all went to bed that night proud to be Americans. We vowed to never forget those who were lost to us forever simply because they were Americans. But 20 years later where are we? Do we truly honor those we lost and the families who loved them? Have the words of Virgil become our reality? Or has the totality of our remembering become an obligatory social media post every 9/11?
The attacks of September 11th were intended to break our spirit. Instead we have emerged stronger and more unified.Rudolph Giuliani (New York City Mayor on 9/11)
How I long to be the people we were, the country we were, on September 12th, 2001. A country full of people who had been terrorized by evil in hopes to bring us to our knees. Yet, the resilience of our fore fathers pumped through our veins as we rose from the ashes, literally. United we stood together. There was no Democrat, there was no Republican. There was no left agenda or right agenda being pushed. The media wasn’t trying to pit us against each other, creating narratives that would cause division. None of that happened. On September 12th, 2001 we all awoke flying one banner and one banner alone…we were ALL Americans and UNITED we would stand. The red, white, and blue of our flag flew everywhere. Almost every house put out an American flag. Neighbors who had never talked became fast friends. Kindness and compassion flowed out of all of us. Churches were filled with people praying. Generosity and love became the theme in our country. It is the closest I have ever seen us to fulfilling God’s command to love others as we love ourselves.
Trauma is a powerful thing, it can either wreck you or unify you. The trauma of September 11th bound us together with one common goal…to never forget the lives that were lost and to never be defeated by the cowards who attacked us.
Together we had watched the events unfold. We watched in utter disbelief as jet airliners were weaponized and used to crash into buildings to maximize the damage done. We watched in horror as we realized people were jumping out of the Twin Towers because that death was more preferable to the never ending inferno ignited by jet fuel. We watched the heroic actions of everyday people unfold right before our very eyes; police, firefighters, and the port authority gearing up to get people out of harms way and civilians helping one another. We watched in total shock as the South Tower came tumbling down quickly followed by the North. We watched the thick cloud of white debris; glass, concrete, and toxins cover lower Manhattan. We watched fire leaping out of the Pentagon as survivors and first responders worked franticly to get people to safety. Stunned, we watched the footage of the charred black remnants of what used to be United flight 93 on a field in Shanksville, PA.
This was the trauma that had us huddled together later that night. Gathering to pray or to simply be with other people. Ready to do anything to help the hurting and the families of the lost. Out of the horror of that day arose the best of who we are and who we can be.
Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11.President Barack Obama
Much like Arlington National Cemetery, I believe every American should walk in the sacred space of what became known as Ground Zero. Quietly contemplating the name of every man and woman etched in the black stone of the two reflecting pools where the Twin Towers once stood.
There is something so extraordinary about walking the hallowed ground were people are honored and remembered for the sacrifices they have made. A place where we are all reminded that our freedom never has been and never will be free. There are many who have paid the ultimate price for each and every one of us to have the luxury and the shared experience of freedom.
True honor, the kind of honor that Virgil speaks of, can only occur when we remember the sacrifices made.
But how quickly we have forgotten.
20 years later America is in a freefall. We have leaders that have divided rather than led well. Journalists and the media have become spin masters; weaving narratives that fit agendas rather than sharing the truth. We no longer wave the red, white, and blue with pride but rather we kneel and turn our backs on the national anthem. We no longer respect the police who rushed into burning buildings to save lives, now we want to defund them. We no longer have a common goal of defeating the ideology of terror, rather we have armed the very entity that emboldened and enabled the terrorists to attack us in the first place. The America that was united so strongly by the trauma of 9/11 has been so divided by the trauma of Covid19. The America that had the honor and dignity to not politicize an American tragedy now 20 years later has politicized every aspect of a global pandemic.
A house divided against itself cannot stand.President Abraham Lincoln
20 years ago the forces of evil against our great nation could not defeat us. In spite of our differences our response was to unify. We put politics aside and we were simply Americans.
20 years later the terrorists that had the audacity to attack us would probably be quite pleased with the current state of our country. We have so quickly forgotten the depth of despair of 9/11 and the power of unity that brought us out of it. Oh, our social media posts suggest we have remembered but our actions do not.
It is our duty to preserve the memory of those who died on September 11th, 2001. It is our duty to ensure that their deaths were not in vain. It is our duty to pass onto our children, not the entitlement of freedom but the privilege of it. It is our duty to make sure that the next generation and the next and the next understand what life was like on September 12th, 2001. It is our duty to get back to the heart of the American experiment. A mosaic of people, a melting pot of cultures, a collage of beliefs…all united under one common goal…freedom. Freedom to express and freedom to speak, even when we disagree.
Honor is birthed in the remembering. Honor is birthed in kindness and compassion. Honor is birthed when we are able to show respect even when we disagree.
With no honor there is no unity. With no unity there is no America. With no America…the terrorists have won.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to give the terrorists a victory…not on our watch. We are better than what we have become and MUST do better moving forward. In honor of every soul lost on September 11th and the lives that are still impacted by the horror of that day we MUST recapture the unity we have lost. It starts with each one of us choosing unity over division, love over hate, and people over politics. We have done it before and we can do it again. We MUST do it again.
God bless you all and God bless the USA.
NEVER FORGET xoxoxo