Like other consequential dates in America’s modern history (e.g. December 7, 1941 and November 22, 1963), we of a certain age remember exactly where we were on September 11, 2001. I was sitting in a graduate school classroom in Chicago on that otherwise normal Tuesday morning when a friend came in and told me that a plane had just hit the North tower of the World Trade Center.
Moments later, the catastrophic tragedy of what was initially assumed to be an accident was confirmed before our eyes as other students and I stood around a television in the university library and watched the second airliner fly into the South tower in real time. The American homeland was brazenly under attack, and it changed our world forever. We have been living under the shadow of that dark day ever since.
Over these past twenty years we recognize that the events of that day are gradually fading from our collective memory, especially among the emerging generations. And we forget to our detriment.
Last week I walked into the BW3’s restaurant in our community and saw a table in the main dining area that had been cordoned off. With candles burning, full glasses were silently honoring the thirteen fallen military members whose names adorned the makeshift placards at each place setting. The names of these brave souls who died in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 26th have been added to the growing list of the noble men and women who have sacrificed so much to ensure our freedoms during this 20-year War on Terror. Despite the fact that vandals have dishonored other makeshift tributes, I told the manager—himself a veteran—it was so encouraging to see this thoughtful display for our fallen heroes. A symbol of remembrance.
The best way we can remember September 11th is by honoring those—both living and dead—who are willing to lay themselves on the line for all of us. Unfortunately, the evil in our world has not been vanquished and will need to be confronted. As long as the United States of America continues to stand as a beacon of freedom, we will draw the attention and attacks of our enemies. And so we must persevere, which starts by never forgetting.