On the Tenth Anniversary of September 11 - We Must Remember

Today, if you've picked up a newspaper; turned on the TV or radio; or went to any news-related site on the Internet, then you know exactly what is being discussed. Ten years ago, four commercial airplanes were hijacked.  Ten years ago, two of those four planes intentionally crashed into the World Trade Center. Ten years ago, the Twin Towers toppled as a result of the damage inflicted by the planes crashing into it.  Ten years ago, a third plane intentionally crashed into the Pentagon. Ten years ago, the fourth plane was en route with the intention to hit the White House; but the hijackers were overrun by passengers on that flight and instead the plane crashed in a field in Somerset County in Pennsylvania. Ten years ago, people died from the wreckage of the Twin Towers and Pentagon; people died from Flight 93 crashing into that field in Pennsylvania; some even jumped out of the buildings instead of accepting the inevitable; and others sacrificed their lives trying to help as many people out as possible.  Ten years ago, September 11 (a.k.a. 9/11) became more than a date, it became a horrible part of history.

Since then, there have been many memorials, services, statements, remembrances, and other acts of tribute, honor and mourning of what happened ten years ago.  There have been and will be many this weekend. Some were/are more or less a exultation of patriotism, like the South Ward singing "God Bless America" in between minutes 9 and 11 of Saturday's Red Bulls game whilst waving American flags.  Some were/are harder to watch and experience than others, such as the public reading of the victims' names on the news today.  There will be more in the future; but they all serve the same purpose: Of all that we can do now, we must properly and completely remember what happened on that day. 

We must remember to honor those who perished either on the planes, from the acts of extreme violence the hijackers intended, and those who didn't run from the horror but into it in an attempt to save somebody.

We must remember that what happened was a terrorist attack. Yes, an attack.  Members of Al-Qaeda planned to hijack these planes and fly them into important buildings to cause as much pain as possible; and they did so. Among all other cold realities from that day, the attacks were a reminder that there are those who hate America so much that they will kill for it.  Al-Qaeda actually has gone further, attacking many other cities in various plots around the world. The Denver Post has photographic timeline of Al-Qaeda and Al-Qaeda-related attacks which go as far back as 1993 and further prove that their organization, their mindset, and their actions are truly sick, twisted, and evil.

Amid the many questions after the attacks, a common one was some variation of "Why did this happen; what did we do to deserve this?" We must remember that the answer to this question is not one damn thing.  Al-Qaeda's rationale for doing this, to put it nicely, was and is absolutely deranged and hateful.  Such feelings cannot be appeased since their hate is based on what we are - that's not something we can or even should change.  They didn't survey the passengers on the plane nor the people working at the World Trade Center or Pentagon.  They didn't ask for how the people felt about a particular issue or event. They didn't request people to list their religion or other beliefs so they could hurt some but not others. They didn't even demand to see ID to see if who they would be terrorizing were even American.  It was an indiscriminate attack in that sense beyond the targets.

We must remember that it actually happened.  As strange as it sounds, conspiracy theories about September 11 grew on the Internet as early as the evening of September 11. (Related Aside: The notion of a nation united after the attacks didn't manifest online - people were arguing over the particulars from the attacks onward.  Heck, even calling it an attack was enough to start an argument. Online, I recall that there were always people looking to blame everyone but the people who've done it and there were always people to spin this towards their own world views. There was no delay, such is the nature of the Internet - for better or worse.)   A largely-Internet based movement grew in the middle of the decade, questioning that what thousands have witnessed first hand and what millions saw on television (yes, news networks showed the attacks and the aftermath) and have stated that didn't happen. That planes didn't fly into buildings, that it was some other group behind it all.  There is plenty of proof otherwise. In directly responding to the "just asking questions" crowed, Popular Mechanics looked into and disproved each and every one of the myths with hard facts.  Additional resources like the September 11 Digital Archive have stored articles, electronic communications, and pictures from that day and afterward also help illustrate what went on.  As time goes on, history can be eroded; we must guard against that with at least the basic truth of what the attacks were.

We must remember that it hurt all of us.  New Jerseyans, New Yorkers, Washingtonians, Americans, People - everyone.  This is the most important thing to remember.  Thousands died, and millions more suffered.  They range from immediate families and friends of those who died, to those who sacrificed themselves in responding to the attacks; to the people whose livelihood is based around the operations in the World Trade Center and Pentagon, to those who lived in those areas and had to personally endure what happened right on their front door, to people in general with the chilling realization if that there are evil people in this world who are willing to kill themselves to strike at who they perceive to be the enemy of their supposed and senseless struggle.

The personal stories carry the most meaning in my opinion. Again, the September 11 Digital Archive is filled with them.  There are hundred, if not thousands, all around the Internet.  As an example, Joe Fortunato shared his recollection.  For a NHL connection, Sean Leahy explained how the NHL was directly affected as Mark Bavis and Garnet "Ace" Bailey were on one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center buildings. There are additional perspectives here by some of the NFL bloggers here at SBN. There are so many more stories. Here's what I can personally recall; as I really can't forget that day.

It was an incredibly pleasant day in New Jersey, near-perfect weather.  I was bored freshman who just entered college; waiting in a dark, cavernous lecture hall for a General Chemistry for Engineers lecture. I was shooting the breeze with some guys from high school when a woman threw the doors open and announced: "All classes are cancelled; two planes have hit the Twin Towers."  The initial reaction was "No way;" but as I got up and left the hallways of the ARC building were filled with people.  Some were just rushing to the doors; some were looking for a spot so they can hear someone on their cellphone; some were clearly upset; and everyone had this sense of shock to them.  Recognizing some others I knew, we hustled across campus to a dorm to get to a television to see what happened. That was a common response: "Did you see what happened on TV?"  When we got there, with the cries of several people in the background, I saw it: the Twin Towers engulfed in smoke. I froze as I saw on live television, one of the worst things I ever saw in my life.  After I unfroze, I thought of my family - I didn't think they would be near by but who knows; a quick call to them later and I learn everyone is safe. I thought whether there would be someone else who were caught up in the attacks - an acquaintance, an associate, someone.  It wasn't until later in the day I learned there wasn't, thank God.  

But those were my thoughts as I boarded a bus back to the commuter lot, seeing lots of people with sadness and surprise on their faces. Maybe they knew someone who were in the attacks and suddenly have to endure personal suffering because horrible people wanted to strike at America. Maybe they were concerned but haven't heard back, agonizing over the lack of response. Maybe it was just the craziness of it all: two planes ultimately taking out the Twin Towers, another damaging the Pentagon, and a fourth stopped in mid-flight and driven into a field. Maybe they were lost in thought about what would happen next. Not everyone on that bus or on campus were American, but that didn't change anyone's feelings or reactions.  It was clear that this affected everyone.

Even though I was blessed to not have been personally affected, those feelings of confusion, sadness, shock, and anger were quite strong then.  They're not as strong now; but they persist in less severity in recalling September 11. That's going to happen over time. That's natural for some I think. Just as people grieve differently, they respond differently. That said, I don't think anyone wants to completely revisit the state of mind they had on September 11, be it anguish, fear, or numbness.  We are blessed, in a way, that we haven't had reason to collectively do so in America since 2001 -  we have not been attacked since then.

Given that it's been ten years since the attacks, the concept of "moving on" has grown. I get that.  It's not healthy or wise to voluntarily suffer from the past. Life continues, regardless. We can look back and recall the nation's collective resiliency; that there was grieving but it didn't shut us down.  From that view, moving on does not mean to stash this day away in our hearts and minds and act as if it didn't happen. Moving on does not mean to just not care anymore about it and shut yourself off from any of this.  Those can be tempting alternatives, but they just cover up the feelings and the thoughts rather than actually moving on. It results in learning little from what happened, history gets muddled, and those who perished and those who sacrificed are ultimately disrespected.  No, moving on requires acknowledgement of what happened on that day and in order to properly do that, we must properly remember what happened. It's not easy - given the sadness and shock I felt and saw clearly from those around me on that day; but it's the first step.  The pain will never fully go away, but not having it dominate us or look to hide it elsewhere; that is truly moving on.

In last year's post on September 11, which featured a picture of the Twin Towers with the question: "Have you forgotten?"  The answer is no.  This post serves as an explanation as to why the answer is no and shall remain as such.  We must be remember, and so we will. We will do so through prayer, through our thoughts, through conversation, and through the memorials that exist both private and public. We will remember September 11, 2011.

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