Never Forget

South Tower being hit during the 9/11 attacks. NIST SIPA/Wikicommons

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.

Remembering.

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

The Myth of Truth

The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history ~ George Orwell

Today is like any other day… not much new under the sun.

The typical 21st century morning consists of taking in our daily dose of whatever social media outlet feeds our constant need for updates. I’m still “old school” enough (and I use that term very lightly) to prefer Facebook. I can actually hear the snickers of my teenager and millennial’s everywhere.

But in the age of the “status”, the “post”, the “snap”, and the “tweet” I have discovered a horrifying fact. Well, I guess it’s horrifying to me, it might not be to you. So many Americans know very little about American history.

People generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for. ~ “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Harper Lee

I am not one to engage in political bantering or rhetoric on social media…it’s just not my style. In a world inundated with opinions, agendas, and false or grossly fabricated news I just don’t see the point. People screaming their opinions, acting like two-year olds as they hurl insults at one another, just seems rather meaningless.  I know very few people who have said “Wow…I saw the light after someone on Facebook called me a moron for what I believed.” Opinions fired off like weapons are not a highly effective way to open the lines of communication with people who think differently than you. The reality is that many people simply tune into the news outlets that say what they want to hear, gravitate toward people who think like them, and have a disdain for those who do not. And as sad as that makes me, it’s not really the point of this blog post.

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless temptest-tost to me. I left my lamp beside the golden door.” ~ Emma Lazarus

Over the last few weeks I have seen theses infamous words, which are etched on the Statue of Liberty, plastered all over social media. Outraged Americans who feel we have forgotten our identity as a country of immigrants. Enraged people who have implored us all to remember the “golden age” of immigration. When we gladly opened the arms of opportunity to all those who sought after a better life on our shores. Time Magazine even went to Instagram with the following post…

“For the first 240 years of U.S. History, at least, our most revered chief executives reliably articulated a set of high-minded, humanist values that bound together a diverse nation naming what we aspired to: democracy, humanity, and equality…”

Enough!!!!!!

This is not a political post. This is a “stop rewriting history to fit the narrative you want to project” post. History is history. Like it or not, you cannot change it to fit your agenda.

Time Magazine, are you kidding me?!?! You mean the same 240 years where our country’s history houses slavery, the Trail of Tears (remember the Indians), when immigrants coming into our country were treated less than human and parents were often separated from their children (the Ellis Island museum actually has a display dedicated to this very thing), segregation, Japanese Americans placed in camps during WWII, etc. So as long as our “most revered chief executives” articulate the values of democracy, humanity, and equality through the spoken word we can forgive them for not actually practicing them?!?!

To all of these men, women, and children, the Statue of Liberty sang her paean of welcome. And lying low in the water next to her, Ellis Island carried the harmony. “Give me your tired, your poor, your oppressed,” sang the Statue. And those who were not too tired or too poor, and who were in good health, heard Ellis Island echo that song. But to those from the poorest places, to those who were ill, to those without sponsors, Ellis Island growled a discordant counterpoint: “Keep out. Begone from whence you came. Sully not these pure shores with your ignorance, poverty, and need. The gate is closed to you. ~ Island of Hope, Island of Tears.

I am so sorry my fellow Americans, you are being lied to. I am sorry that you are being led to believe that there was a “golden age” of immigration in this country. That there was a time when the immigrants that came over as colonists welcomed new immigrants with open arms. That it was all sunshine and roses on Ellis Island as people easily entered the United States. That bias against certain people and nationalities wasn’t commonplace. That children weren’t separated from their parents and even sometimes sent back to their country of origin…alone. I am sorry you are being led to believe that men who articulated principles but didn’t live by them are what we should be longing for.

You cannot rewrite history to tell the narrative you want it to tell. History, can be retold with bias, but the facts of its truth are inescapable.

We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage. ~ President Theodore Roosevelt

Unless you a pure Native American, you are an immigrant. You come from a people who had the courage to step beyond what was known. Souls who longed for something better. Lured to the land of opportunity. A place where even the lowliest of beggars and paupers could rise in station and status to live like kings. Quite simply, the greatest democracy experiment ever tested.

I actually think its amazing how many second, third, fourth, etc. generations of Americans, historically and currently, have hardened their hearts to those simply trying to do what their own ancestors did. This is not the cue for the legal vs. illegal entry arguments. This also has nothing to do immigration legislation. I think laws and processes are a very good thing…they bring order to chaos. What I am simply stating is that, in my own observations, I think many people have forgotten that the vast majority of us are not ancestrally native to the land known as the United States…we are all immigrants.  And an opportunity given and taken should always pay it forward through embracing and supporting that same opportunity for others.

I often think about the courage it took for my grandparents to leave their native Italy for the shores of America. I guess when you have nothing to lose…risks seem less risky. To the day they died my grandparents had a heart for the country of their birth but they loved America…passionately. There were fiercely loyal to country that had adopted them. America was their home.

However, I do not wear rose-colored glasses and neither did my grandparents. Arriving in America, there were no welcome parades waiting for ships full of immigrants coming into New York harbor. No, what actually awaited most immigrants were invasive examines, grueling tests to gauge mental and cognitive capabilities, and a whole line of questions that if answered wrong would land you back on the ship you just disembarked to return to your homeland. Truth be told there were periods when certain nationalities or people groups were simply not let into our country…period!!! And the ones who did get in weren’t exactly given the red carpet treatment as they began their new life in America.

Those early years in America were not easy for my grandparents. They were ridiculed, mocked, unwelcome, and were given very few, if any, allowances for their lack of proficiency in the English language. Yet, I can confidently say that both of my grandparents, if alive today, would tell the world that it was all worth it. The hard work, the scrutiny, the difficulities…all paled in comparison to the abundant blessing it was to be an American.

America is, and always will be a shining city on a hill. ~ President Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan was infamous for referring to America this way. Yet, I wonder how many Americans even know that John Winthrop was the very first person to describe America this way. As he sailed away from England in the 1600’s he longed for a land of opportunity. A beacon of hope in the midst of oppression. A place where freedom could actually be realized. From the pages of the Bible he pulled out the idea of the city on a hill and claimed that ideal for the New World.

The United States of American became the greatest nation the world has ever known because many people came together to become one. It is our diversity that makes us so culturally rich. It is the melding of the great minds, principles rooted in equality and freedom, and the favor of God that has formulated a democracy that has lasted more than any other in human history. Sure our history has blots and black marks upon it. We have made mistakes, many of them. We have even failed in epic ways but we must always remember that every great success story has failure in its DNA.

This post is not about policy, or law, or our current administration’s tactics. It is simply a post from an American who loves her country and has a reverence for its history. A history that I think we all too often overlook or never bother to learn, which is extraordinarily dangerous. Because history not learned is history that is most vulnerable to edits, revisions, and is ultimately doomed to repeat itself.

In this time of such political divisiveness, I implore people to not be so quick to believe a fabricated version of history because it suits a narrative we want to believe. We must also not dismiss the facts of where we have come from or where we are at because the truth might make us uncomfortable. The myth of history cannot change the future, only the truth of it can.

One final note, I encourage any one who might stumble across these ramblings of mine to shut off Fox News, tune out CNN, stop looking at your Twitter feed and simply open up a history book. Examine for yourself what truly happened in our past so that we might improve our future. The immigration posts of the last several weeks have prompted me to do just that. My current read is Island of Hope, Island of Tears by David Brownstone, Irene Franck, and Douglas Brownstone. I highly recommend it.