People process memories of disastrous events in different ways. Some people want to forget the details in order to move on; others want to remember every detail because that memory helps them move on. When it comes to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, I want to remember every detail of that day.
Twelve years later, I still remember the day in detail. Tuesday, blue sky in Washington DC, stuck in traffic on my way to get a physical, listening to the DJ puzzled and shocked at reports that a plane hit the WTC, nobody at the doc’s office had heard anything yet, two hours later they all heard, gridlock in Bethesda as people evacuated DC, two hours to make the normally 20-minute commute home (pointless to go back to work because we couldn’t do anything), hugging my wife when I finally got home (those were better days-see previous post), going back to the office for a few hours anyway, returning home, driving many miles north to pick up my repaired car from a dealer near where it broke down and thanking them for keeping the place open till I got there because they certainly didn’t have any other customers that afternoon, watching endless hours of TV coverage.
Mostly I remember fear. That’s the point of terrorism, isn’t it? Creating fear. It worked. That day, maybe that week and month. Remembering that day, week and month reminds me that we eventually overcame the fear.
I also remember how Americans came together to help each other out. That is one part, maybe the only part, of that day I wish we still had.
I will never forget the sacrifices first responders made.
I will never forget the change in attitude within the most hardened, business-minded co-workers as we held what turned out to be a prayer service in the lobby at work. Our country music station played on lobby speakers in the background as the boss made his remarks and others led prayers representing different faiths. The National Anthem played at noon, as it has every day for decades. LeAnn Rimes sang it that day. The next song was Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA”. That is the moment that began the attitude shift and many of us softly cried.
I will never forget the sight of military jets and helicopters, the only things flying. Even the birds seemed to be grounded for the next few days.
I will never forget interviewing an eyewitness to the Pentagon crash for my Sunday morning public affairs show, the fear still in her voice days after that horrible sight.
I will never forget how pissed off I was that anybody could attack us on our own soil and use religion as their reason, totally defaming their otherwise peaceful faith.
You may choose to commemorate September 11th by remembering or by forgetting. The part I encourage you to acknowledge is that we survived the attack on our country and we still have the freedom to decide for ourselves whether to remember or forget.
The title of this post indicates my choice.