Everyone remembers September 11, 2001 differently.
I was in grade school at the time of the attacks, which I consider a mercy, but the most profound impression I remember were the faces of all of the adults around us, especially the parents that for some reason came in a wave to pick their kids up from school that day.
The teachers didn’t tell us — they judged us too young to handle that one without our parents, which was reasonable. When I got home, however, I was treated to that impact footage that was placed on repeat for a seeming eternity thereafter.
And no one said anything.
I can vividly remember thinking, as a kid, “Are my cousins alive?”
I had an aunt, an uncle, and two cousins that lived in the New York suburbs. I wasn’t old enough to understand what portions of the area were in danger, so I just thought I had lost a third of my extended family.
And there are much, much worse stories. I have an in-law that didn’t die that day because he woke up ten minutes late — and he still was put through the trauma of the attack as the aftermath unfolded right in front of his face.
And yet, through all that, both he and I are extremely lucky.
Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks — that’s hundreds of thousands of people whose lives were rocked, and I don’t think there was a single American that wasn’t affected to some degree that day.
It was a black day.
It was also one of our nation’s finest moments.
From out of the woodwork, men and women poured to help those injured and struggling to stay alive. One of the planes terrorists planned to weaponize was brought down in Pennsylvania when the passengers flat-out refused to be victims. 343 Firefighters gave their lives protecting and rescuing and protecting others during the attack, according to Business Insider.
Every once in a while — and may the spaces between these crises grow ever-extended — the American people are given a difficult option: remain entrenched in our divisions and fear, or band together to make real change.
We’ve got a record, and a nation, to be immensely proud of.
Today, Patriot Day, is so important for two reasons, really. You might still see the occasional sign or bumper sticker with the line “never forget.” There are two things to never forget.
- Never forget the tragedy and sacrifice of thousands of men and women that lost their lives on September 11, 2001.
- Never forget what the American people are capable of when radical love, sacrifice, and service when it is required of them.
I’ll never forget either.
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