The Power of Memory
This month marks the 21st anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks. A generation has now come of age with no memory of that day.
The "miracle babies" of 9/11 --the children whose mothers were in the delivery room on 9/11 and whose fathers were skipping work in the towers that day to stand nervously by-- are now adults.
The teenagers, interns, and young college students who watched the towers fall that day are now nose-diving towards middle-age. Some have spent half their lives at war. Lives changed that day, and lives ended that day. The victims of that day represent America. Men and women going to work. Families going on vacation. Travelers heading home. A deer-hunter from Hancock who just happened to be having breakfast in the World Trade Center. The widow of an iconic Hollywood actor. A Brinks delivery guy who was loading the ATMs with cash. So many moms and dads, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, did not get to go home that day.
For millions of people, that day will remain forever etched in their memories. Some days stand out in time. We witnessed tragedy that day. We also witnessed true heroism. The hundreds of firefighters and police officers who didn't go home that day were well aware of the true hell on earth they were heading towards. The priest who died in the streets offering comfort to the dying and injured was also answering a higher calling. The passengers on Flight 93 were also well aware of the fate that awaited them when they chose to take that fate into their own hands.
Twenty-one years later the US Navy has a ship, the USS Somerset, with a permanent memorial to the crew and passengers of Flight 93. And, today, the flags will fly at half mast.
But how many people will take a moment to drag themselves away from their social media feeds to remember that the flags fly at half mast because of 9/11 and not the passing of the British monarch? We were going to let the day pass in silence. But, on the afternoon of September 10th, a bicyclist squeaked to a halt in front of the war memorial at the end of Avenue of the Flags and asked the gardener if the flags were lowered because of HRH Elizabeth.
And so this year, and every year, we will strive not just to remember, but to share. The dead are always owed the respect of living on in our memories. But we also owe ourselves this moment to share our memories of tragedy and heroism. In moments of tragedy, the ordinary men and women who become heroes give us a gift that outlives us all.
And so, today, maybe we owe it to both the dead, and the living, to talk about where we were, who we were, and what the world was like twenty-one years ago today.