Nine years now. Nine years since one of the most shocking and devastating days of our American experience. Nine years of reassessing our role in the world and reasserting our democratic purpose.
The images of destruction have not faded. The pain of loss has not subsided. Sadness still shadows our hearts and minds, that there is so much hate for us and for our nation to cause terrorists to do this to innocent people.
Most of the events we mark in civic life are celebrations filled with enthusiasm and inspiration. This day is different. It is a somber occasion, remembering the thousands of civilians who lost their lives in terrorist attacks. In the name of, in the memory of, those who perished, we pause, we observe silence, we remember. It is our solemn obligation, for all time.
In some places, bells will toll. In some places, the roll of the dead will be read. In some places, wreaths will be laid. In some places, poignant memorials will be dedicated. Each place, in the way of its choosing, is seeing duty done.
Yet, true remembrance is more than a moment in time.
How should we remember?
We should listen to those who bear witness, those who survived the attacks, and those who lost family members, friends, and co-workers. Their words and stories contain meaning and healing.
We should remember all those who rushed to help, too many becoming victims themselves, and all those who generously contributed service and resources to recovery efforts.
We should pray for the safe return of those who serve yet in Iraq and Afghanistan, those who are fighting to remove the threats behind 9/11, and for the restoration of lives for all who have served in that cause. We should ask God to care for the souls of those who sacrificed their lives fighting terrorism.
We should take time to recount all that is right about America. Even at a time when there is doubt and distrust and disillusion across our nation, the truth remains that we are blessed with the rights and privileges assured to us under our democracy.
A woman recently related that her teenage daughter has taken to watching programs about 9/11. The girl said: “Mom, I was only nine when this happened. It did not make a big impression on me then. But now that I see this, it is so terrible.” For those seeing these things for the first time, or for us, for whom the events of that dark day are seared in memory, the lessons matter.
Next year, the permanent memorial at Shanksville should be completed. It will speak to generations to come, about loss, about sacrifice, about courage. About how disparate people, bound only by being booked on the same fateful Flight 93, when confronted with extreme peril, acted with grim determination, and rallied behind a simple declaration: “Let’s roll.”
Sometimes, the best perspective on America is delivered from a distance. In a recent essay, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair defined the American ideal. The American ideal “transcends class, race, religion, or upbringing.” It “is about values: freedom, the rule of law, democracy.” “It is what makes the country determined to overcome challenges. It is what makes soldiers give their lives in sacrifice. It is what brings every variety of American to their feet when the Star-Spangled Banner is played.”
The American ideal is about all the things that bring us together. The horrific events of September 11, 2001 gave us fresh cause to come together. We were united then. Here, today, we are united again. So must we be united in all the tomorrows to come. In this way, we forever remember and honor the victims of 9/11.
Contact: Jennifer Wilson