I heard a French news commentator the other day ask his guests if September 11th was even worth commemorating, remembering 10 years later. I'm not overly nationalistic, but his comment slightly enraged me because I found it somewhat disrespectful. And then it got me thinking...
Other than French verb conjugations, I had no idea what was going on that crisp autumn morning. I was barely awake for my 8 AM Sociology course, and during my 10 minute break period, I hadn't heard what was transpiring in my nation's economic and political capitals. I guess because no one really knew. This was a time before 24 hour news cycles and Twitter. Really even before text messages were over utilized. I listened to my French professor in a dimly lit classroom as if everything was normal.
And then I stepped outside into the sunlight.
Yet it all seemed so dark. People huddled together in Humanities Plaza, crying or just staring into the distance. I wondered if someone really famous and important had died. My cell phone, which had been on silent, had apparently been ringing like crazy. My ex-boyfriend, my mom, my dad. All had been trying to reach me. I headed to the University center and saw the collapses being repeated over and over again on the tiny TV screen. My first thoughts turned to my family, as they are mostly concentrated in the DC area. I went over to another part of campus to be with my mom. In the parking lot, I broke down and cried. A stranger walking past, paused, put his hand on my shoulder and said, "I'm sorry for your loss." I hadn't lost anyone, but I was so terribly sad for those who had.
Just like when Kennedy was shot, most Americans can describe what they were doing the day the Twin Towers fell. The day that many Americans supposedly lost their innocence. I was a freshman in college, full of excitement and aspirations. On the 11th of September 2001, my excitement turned to fear. My aspirations to doubt.
September 11 had such a profound impact on the world that it is hard to ignore. Yes, there are larger tragedies elsewhere, but when 3,000+ human lives are lost in an instant like that, when humans become weapons, and when symbols are destroyed, you can't not remember. So yes, Mr. French Commentator, it is worth commemorating. It may not be D-Day, or the day atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, but it was a huge tragedy for us. We are a nation still dealing with the scars and current realities of this attack. We need a day where we can remember how far along we've come in healing and how far we need to go.
If I had one wish, one hope for American 10 years after September 11th, it would be to remember. Remember those we have lost, on that day and in the aftermath. Remember those who are still fighting, whether in the foreign wars that came out of that tragic day or those who fight for their health every day because they risked their lives to save others. But most importantly, remember how we felt that day. Not the anger, the confusion, the fear. But rather the unity. I'll never forget watching Congress, gathering on the steps of the Capitol building, singing "God Bless America" together. Now, you could barely recognize our nation. We were resolved in the days after September 11 to be a stronger, better, cohesive nation that could rise above any national tragedy. That American brotherhood seemingly does not exist now.
You don't have to mourn with us. You don't have to commemorate or even think about this day. But show some respect for those who choose to do so.