It has been eight years since what we thought only happened “over there” happened over here.
When that first plane hit the World Trade Center, many did not believe it happened. It took a moment to wrap our heads around a plane crashing into an iconic American structure with so many working Americans in it. We assumed it was a small plane but before we had a chance to understand and realize that it was a large passenger jet that crashed into the WTC and exploded into a ball of flames that sprinkled the city below with debris, another plane came screeching across the sky and crashing into the other of the two World Trade Center towers.
In the minutes that followed, there was literally too much to comprehend, especially now that it was clear that people were dying with the passage of each moment and thought.
As horrified New Yorkers looked up to the billowing plumes of smoke that endlessly streamed from not one, but two towering infernos, small shadows objects occasional came down from the flame filled windows of the shattered buildings and plummeted to the streets. Terrified bystanders could not at first make these objects out and the firemen running into the towers did not know what the occasional loud thuds they heard were. Then it became clear. They were people, people who had no escape from the smothering smoke and intense heat from the conflagration and melting steel within it. Their only escape was to free fall from the heavens for it was either fall or burn.
When it was realized that these were men and women crashing to the ground, the eyewitnesses looking up from below screamed in horror and turned their heads away with tear-filled eyes. The only thing more frightening to see than these bodies falling to their sudden, splattering deaths was the ground that you would have seen approaching you if you were one of those tortured few falling to your own death.
But this unfolding horror was not all that was going on. Inhuman forces of evil were still spreading their will in the skies over America and aiming at Washington, D.C.
As the men and women trapped in the World Trade Center continued to succumb to the blazing fires and suffocating toxic smoke or jump from the windows of hell and into the hands of God, another jet crashed into the Pentagon and soon after that another crashed into a Pennsylvania field.
Then finally, as if the curtains to this day of death was coming down, first one and then the other flaming shells of the Twin Towers crumbled and cascaded to the ground in a final display of heartache that sent every man, woman and child fleeing for their own lives as they tried to keep a step ahead of the fast moving ash cloud of burnt humans, pulverized concrete and assorted rubble encompassed lower Manhattan.
These were the events of September 11th, 2001.
Once the shock wore off, they were events that unified us in defiance as well as anger, love, appreciation for one another and what we have and a patriotic fervor. And as we began to mourn the loss of those confirmed dead and held out hope for those still unaccounted for, as a nation, we rose to face the challenge laid at out feet.
We also realized that what we once thought could only happen “over there” did and can happen over here.
Eight years later, I am not sure if some sort of survival mechanism has kicked in and forced many of us to block the horrors and grief of that day from our minds, but it seems as if many have forgotten the impact that 9/11 had on each of us. It seems as some of us still believe that though our resilient nation has done more than heal our wounds from that day, we have also covered up the scars left behind. If that is true, it too would be a tragedy.
The day, its events, its victims and its emotions can not ever be allowed to fade from memory.
On September 11th, 2001 we discovered the smell of fear and felt the fear of uncertainty. Both were so overwhelming that as we buried those who could be pieced together, we also committed ourselves to never let what happened ever happen again.
In the years to follow, an essential part of what will help us fulfill that commitment and prevent the next 9/11 from happening again has been lost. We are no more the united nation that dawned in America on September 12th, 2001. Eight years later Republicans distrust Democrats, Democrats distrust Republicans and the average American doesn’t trust either.
In the mean time, the enemies of freedom are united. They are waiting for the right opportunity to strike again at the worlds beacon of freedom.
On September 12th, 2001, we were probably safer than ever before in America. Not because of the higher security or fear that existed in the hours after our brothers sisters, mother, fathers, sons, daughters, husbands, wives and friends were killed. We were safer because we stood together, albeit in shock and grief.
Today, eight years after the great American eagle shed a tear, it is clear that America is at its best when we are united as a people. When we have a single shared vision and commitment there is no nation greater than us and no enemy more powerful than us. Eight years after 9/11/2001, can we honor the men and women who were assassinated on 9/11 and can we commit ourselves to the type of strength and vigilance that will keep America strong?
The only way we really can do both is by uniting and remembering. By remembering the men and women whose lives were lost on this day eight years ago, their deaths will never be in vain so long as our memory of them compels us to do everything we can to prevent such events from happening again. As for unity, in it is strength and in strength is security.
So on this day, do not divide. Do not point fingers or deny the facts. Remember what happened on 9/11 and who it happened to and then remember the unity we shared in on 9/12.
That is the most productive way to spend the day.