It is hard to imagine now the uncertainty of 15 years ago today. How everything stopped and we all watched in horror at the reality of terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the failed attempt that crashed into Pennsylvania. No one saw it coming, but the unimaginable unfolded on Sept. 11, 2001 and we have never been the same.
Our country has been at war for a decade and a half. Waiting for bags to be checked and pat downs to be conducted at airports, sporting events and other large gatherings has become commonplace. The words Al Qaeda, ISIS, extremists and Jihad have become a regular part of our vocabulary.
Really, though, it brought us together. People frantically tried to call their loved ones. People held hands prayed with strangers. People donated blood, money, their services to help those in need. People united under one flag.
So many people who lost their lives that day were simply going to work. First responders, janitors, managers, administrative assistance, major account executives, and everyone else who went to work that day, as they had done for days and years past. This is one of the reasons 9/11 still feels so raw — it could have happened to any of us.
In some ways, we are just as divided as we were prior to 9/11. Economic inequalities, racial divisions, religious differences all serve to put a wedge in the “one nation, under God.”
But we are still one nation.
One nation that has changed.
A country’s trust in government changed. We have had our first black president, a new healthcare system and an election where immigration is more of a topic than ever before. Social media is the preferred news source of choice, and everything and anything that happens can be broadcast in an instant via smartphone.
One World Trade Center, a new building, has been built on the complex that once held the now iconic twin towers of New York City.
Those buildings will never stand again, but they will never be forgotten.
Also not to be forgotten is how the world has changed.
This year marks 15 years since what is now known as 9/11, and anyone younger than a freshman in high school will learn of that event only through textbooks, and their parents.
For the past 15 years, it seems that 9/11 has been tied in with the words “never forget”, but now going forward as a new generation comes to maturity without living through that day let’s agree to “pass on the memories”. After all we are a community. A community needs to be united. United like we were on that day, and united like we were before technology made face to face communication seem obsolete.
For a lot of us growing up, we knew of the “date which will live in infamy” from hearing our parents talk about FDR’s call for a declaration of war after Pearl Harbor was bombed. Or we learned where everyone was on Nov. 22, 1963 when they found out President Kennedy had been shot.
Those dates also forever changed the way our world is. And we all knew of its significance, in how a memory could last so long in our loved ones.
Now we have Facebook, Twitter, the internet, hard drives and more to remember things for us.
But clicking on something only carries so much weight. Hearing your grandfather talk of Pearl Harbor or seeing a lump gather in your mother’s throat as she described Kennedy’s assassination was a sure sign that this was something to listen to, learn from and absorb.
So it is with us that the lessons of Sept. 11, 2001 should be passed, through our community.
After all, it wasn’t a day when schools were closed and flights were cancelled, it was a day that changed everything. It challenged our very way of life in America.
We indeed have come a long way. But the further we get from 2001, the more we run the risk of forgetting the lessons of Sept. 11, when a country came together, when a nation set itself on recovery and the course of the future changed.
To bridge that gap we must pass it on to those who weren’t yet alive, those who need more than a Wikipedia excerpt to know what had happening and why the world now is what it is.
We are still one community. We may be different but we need not be divided. Any day but especially today as we commemorate an event that was so horrific and yet so powerful in the ability to bring us together.
No matter what side you are on, today we should be proud to be an American. And remember all those who lost their lives living the American dream and responding to protect it.
Today we should put aside all that separates us and stand together for that which binds us to each other.