Every year as September 11th approaches, social media is filled with posts and pictures with the words, “Never Forget”. When I see these I start wondering to myself, ‘Are there really people out there who have forgotten?’
Maybe those who didn’t have loved ones serving in our military or flying that day, are they able to forget?
Maybe those who overslept that morning and didn’t see the people of New York running through smoke filled streets or the second plane hit the South Tower in real time, are they able to forget?
Maybe, but I will never forget that day.
I was in my sophomore year of college on September 11, 2001. My small dorm television was on in the background as I was getting ready for an early morning class. I heard the emergency interruption and ran to my television. I could hardly believe my eyes, what was happening? How was this happening? I watched, stunned, as the second plane hit and the towers fell. I watched the terror on New Yorkers’ faces as they fled. It was like watching a horror movie unfold. But knowing this was real life.
I felt the fear, anxiety, and helplessness as I watched the news coverage in the days and weeks following the attacks. September 11th brought out a level of loyalty in all Americans that I had not experienced before. It changed us. It changed our nation. I felt patriotism in ways I never had before.
Fear. Helplessness. Unity.
The sense of unity and patriotism that came following the attacks was amazing. American flags were displayed everywhere. A united front. As we approach the 20th anniversary of the attacks, I can’t help but feel that has changed. As I watch the events unfolding both stateside and overseas, combined with our nation’s divisive political scene, those feelings of helplessness bubble back to the surface. Every time I turn on the television, I’m frustrated, angry, fearful, and confused. It is all rushing back. The hate. The violence. The uncertainty of it all. As if we really have forgotten.
In these moments, I look to my children and their innocence. When those feelings of helplessness and uncertainty rise up, I know that one thing I can do is teach them by example. Teach them kindness and empathy. Teach them to stand up for themselves and to speak out. I can show them that our differences make us unique and to see the good in everyone. I can teach them to ask questions and to listen, even when the answers are hard to swallow.
I can teach them what it means to be an American in a post 9/11 world. And in that, I have faith and hope for us all.