A few years ago, I was a weekly volunteer in a sixth grade classroom. When we entered September, the students became confused about why they had a school-wide commemorative moment of silence one morning. Afterwards, we sat in a group to talk about it and I heard multiple students say, “I was a year old on 9/11. I don’t really understand what happened. Can you explain it to me?”
I was shocked. It had never before occurred to me that an event so massive and memorable to anyone old enough to remember could be lost on younger generations.
Unless you were in a coma twelve years ago or born in the time that has followed it, I imagine you can tell me exactly where you were and what you were doing when you first heard about the attacks that occurred on 9/11, and the days that followed. For me, I remember weeks of nonstop news coverage of flames, rubble and lists of lives lost. The whole country was simultaneously seized by fear and an overwhelming sense of national compassion.
That’s not something easily forgotten. And yet, there seems to be a new trend in attempting to forget it ever happened.
The plane hijacks that crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania were the biggest act of terrorism to ever occur on the United States’ soil. Not only were the events on this day completely horrifying on their own, the number of lives lost by emergency personnel, soldiers and international civilians in the days and years that followed has been astronomical and heartbreaking.
A dozen years ago our country unified over a tragedy that changed all of our lives in countless ways. It is the absolute least we can do to fly our flags at half-staff and take a moment of silence every year on this day to seriously consider the impact one day can have.
Considering that we as a country still memorialize the pain brought on by historic events such as Pearl Harbor, it is absurd to stop remembering such a recent national tragedy. When Patriot Day (the official commemorative holiday title) was presidentially proclaimed as an observance in 2002, the idea wasn’t to only care about the effects of such a fateful day for a handful of years.
The idea was to forever mark the day that made everything change as a significant point in history.
The wounds are far from healed; events of this magnitude don’t just scab over. We need time to heal as individuals and as a unified nation. And if the time comes when our wounds do heal, I hope they do not ever become forgotten.
When history becomes forgotten, we are doomed to repeat it. Experiencing it once was more than enough pain for everyone.
We owe it the lives lost and the loved ones that survived them to never forget. There’s no reason to stop remembering.
Anna Mitchell may not be a Patriots fan, but she’s a fan of Patriot Day. Never forget. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Read Allison Chase’s counter to Anna’s debate here: http://rmsmc.wpengine.com/2013/09/911-is-too-politicized/41167/