I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m really beginning to think that I’m not the only one with a terrible memory. It is admittedly difficult for me to remember a lot of events that occurred as far as fifteen years ago. But I’ve always thought it strange whenever people frequently state that they’ll “never forget” or to “remember the fallen” from the catastrophic events that took place on September 11th, 2001, because unlike trying to remember what clothes I was wearing or what I ate for lunch that day, it’s pretty tough to forget something so brutally horrifying and frightening as a terror attack that killed thousands and made an impact on the entire world’s way of life. I mean no disrespect by that either because I completely understand and fully agree with the need to honor the lives that were lost in the attacks, and I also completely understand and fully agree that we’re doomed to repeat our history if we don’t remember it. But are there really people in this world, at least people who were alive at that time, who would easily forget an event that could quite frankly be described as cataclysmic? It’s pretty scary to imagine.
I still remember that I was a sophomore in high school on this day back in 2001. I was actually in a completely silent classroom trying to take my graduation qualifying exam when first plane hit the World Trade Center. We were briefly interrupted by a teacher walking into the room and announcing what had just happened in New York City. We were then asked to continue concentrating on our exam which, to be honest, is somewhat comedic in retrospect. The way tensions were already starting to boil, it was a miracle that any of us passed our qualifying exam that day. Every other class that we went to afterwards was practically spent watching news coverage of the events as they unfolded. It was completely silent during passing periods in the hallways, except for the school jokers thought it was funny to run around screaming about how we were being invaded and that we were all gonna die. I remember some kids were getting pulled out of school by their worried parents. I remember talking to one of our school’s foreign exchange students, thinking that she would be frightened more than anyone by being in a foreign land and removed from her family, and I still remember thinking that she was actually the calmest. Though I’m sure she was nervous and scared as well, she left me with the impression that maybe we were just shocked as Americans. That maybe we were naive and spoiled by our relative safety and security from the rest of the world. By the time I finally got to leave, I remember passing gas stations with lines of cars waiting to fill up for nearly $5 a gallon when it had been a few dollars cheaper just earlier that morning. Maybe more than anything, I remember my art teacher telling me something vague and eerily prophetic: “Nothing in our world is going to be the same.”
And this is the snapshot of life on 9/11 for a scared kid in Indiana that, at the time, had very little connection to anyone even remotely near Ground Zero or the Pentagon. It’s hard to fathom what it would be like to be there or knowing that someone I love or that I’m close to was inside or near one of those locations that day. I’ve known a lot of native New Yorkers state that unless you were there, you don’t know what it’s like. While I think we can certainly sympathize and realize that it could have happened to anywhere and to any of us, they’re probably right. Most of us don’t know what it is like to be close to something of that magnitude. But it’s a scary and sad world that we live in now where our law enforcement officers and other first responders are treated so poorly when they are the people who, in most circumstances, would give up their life to protect yours in any event whether it’s life-changing for you personally or world-changing the way 9/11 was. These people deserve our support and respect and shouldn’t be blamed as a whole for questionable decisions made by a few.
And I think maybe that’s what we should be remembering today.