September 11th, 2001. A day which will live forever in our hearts. In infamy. As I sit here tonight, I think back on that day, eleven years ago. I remember it as if it was yesterday. The shock. The devastation. At the time, I knew no one directly affected by the tragedy, but it made no difference. I remember walking outside, into that crisp September morning–gazing up into the clear, cloudless skies over northeastern Maryland. It felt surreal–wrong, somehow–that nature itself was not joining in the sorrow of a nation.
I was eleven years old at the time of the attacks. I watched as the second plane slammed into the buildings, as the South Tower imploded. My parents, unlike many other parents across America, chose not to shield me from the tragedy. Whether theirs was a deliberate choice, or whether they were simply too overwhelmed by their own grief to think of it, I may never know. What I do know, is that I am eternally grateful that I was not so shielded. Without the impact of that tragedy, I would not be the person I am today. September 11th changed my life forever.
In the days that followed, I watched as America went to war. I saw people come together as neighbors, as Americans. The red, white, and blue flew from every house, every street corner, every car. The people of 9/12 rose up as one. I listened as the President of the United States exhorted Americans to “Get down to Disney World in Florida. Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed”. Ill-advised words.
And I watched as Americans heeded his words. As her soldiers went to war, America slid back into its pre-9/11 complacency, with many seemingly heedless of the ongoing conflict. Unless someone had a family member on the front lines, unless a friend came home in a casket, odds were that they were more concerned with who was sleeping with Britney Spears than who was fighting for their freedom. And despite the best intentions of all concerned, the gulf between our citizens and our soldiers grew wider. As my friend and Iraq War veteran Michael Piro said in this blog post, “Aliens. That is what celebrities and civilians were in Iraq. Latest fashions, who dumped who, who is pregnant, who had surgery… Who gives a *&$#@!”
I took a look at my Facebook account at lunch today and came to a startling realization. Of my peers among the visible contacts, less than 10% had posted anything in memorial. For them, September 11th seemed to be just another date on the calendar, devoid of any meaning, absent any sorrow. One of them, commenting on the ongoing debate regarding the removal of the 9/11 cross, said, “I’m pretty apathetic.”
For some, September 11th was a call to arms. Many went into the far corners of the earth to defend our freedom. My name does not deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as those brave men and women. But I kept the promise I made to myself on that day. To never forget the blood spilled that September morning. To never forget the price of liberty.
Never. . .