Most of us older than 10 years old on Sept. 11, 2001, remember exactly where we were and what we doing on that day.
Most of us older than 10 years old on Sept. 11, 2001, remember exactly where we were and what we doing on that day. It’s one of life’s pivotal moments we won’t forget.
On active-duty in the Marines training how to fly a new airplane to which I was assigned, I was temporarily posted in Wichita, Kansas, on that day. I came out of the cockpit from the first half of a 6 1/2-hour simulator mission for a short break and the North Tower had been hit. All the aviators glued to the TVs in that Wichita break room assumed it was some off-course private plane.
In retrospect, the perfect, cloudless, sunny day that morning in New York made the possibility of an errant airplane highly unlikely. But we couldn’t fathom terrorism until the South Tower was hit by United Airlines Flight 175. And then American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 73 crashed at 600-some miles per hour into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. It felt like the end of the world.
It’s a long story, but I boarded a Marine aircraft in Wichita on the morning of Sept. 12, 2001, an exceptionally rare aircraft remarkably permitted to take off only 24 hours after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The air traffic controllers along the route home — all of whom were bored to tears and chatty — said we were in the unique position of being one of fewer than half a dozen military-only aircraft in the sky over all of North America during the five-hour flight to New River from Kansas.
So I will never forget 9/11. But what about those of us who don’t, like me, have some military connection to 9/11 or far worse, have a personal connection to the death and destruction of that day? What about those who weren’t old enough to remember? Today’s 21-year-olds were only seven on that terrible day. I don’t know about you, but I remember little of being seven.
Editorials and political cartoons — if cartoons can or should be used to describe anything having to do with 9/11 — suggested this past week that we should “Never Forget.” The New York Times wondered in its Sept. 11 editorial, “Will we always remember?”
The fact is: we won’t always remember. And that’s OK.
My great-grandparents’ 9/11 was the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor in January 1898, an alleged act of war that started the Spanish-American War. “Remember the Maine” was equivalent to 9/11’s “Never Forget” slogan. Yet forget we have.
On Sept. 16, 1920, a horse drawn carriage loaded with 100 pounds of dynamite and 500 pounds of iron slugs exploded across the street from the J.P. Morgan bank in downtown Manhattan, New York. That explosion killed 30, injured hundreds and destroyed the Morgan building. Evidence suggested anarchists, although the perpetrators of the terror were never caught. My grandparents’ 9/11 was the Wall Street bombing. “Never Forget Wall Street” they were told. Yet forget we have.
Mom and Dad’s 9/11 was Pearl Harbor. In just a few years the last of the Greatest Generation will have passed, along with most of our memory of this vicious attack on our homeland in 1941. We’ve been asked for years to “Remember Pearl Harbor.” Yet forget we will.
My first 9/11 was the Beirut Embassy and Marine Barracks bombings in April and then October 1983, events that some historians say were the beginnings of the modern war of terrorism. The Beirut Veterans of America’s slogan is, “The First Duty is to Remember.” But except for a Jacksonville memorial of the horror of losing 300-some Americans, we have, for all practical purposes, forgotten.
Vox.com, as reported by the news magazine “The Week”, reported early in August, “At least 235 people have died in 75 mass shootings since the Sandy Hook massacre of 20 school children and six adults in December 2012.” We Americans have “moved on,” it seems, even since the horror of the Emanuel AME church shootings in Charleston, S.C. just this past June.
Remembering is important. Therefore it is sad that we’ve forgotten the USS Maine and Wall Street and will soon forget Pearl Harbor and inevitably 9/11 and Sandy Hook and Emanuel AME. Yet there is, in fact, honor in being able to move on, too, rather than living in fear or, worse, in constant, unwavering, eternal anger — like some in our world are prone to do — over such events.
In America we, at least for a time, honor and grieve for the dead. But then rightfully we move on and get on with life. Never forget? Sure. But only for a time.
Barry Fetzer is a columnist for the Havelock News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.