September 11, 2001: Forgotten History
This was written by a few months ago by a friend who works for the US Secret Service and was in New York on September 11th.
I was in New York on September 11, 2001. I witnessed the terrorist attacks, was part of the response and witnessed bravery on a scale only comparable to the acts our military members are performing everyday in Iraq and Afghanistan. When I think of that day, the memories come back like it was yesterday, sights, sounds, smells and horror. Unfortunately it seems that many other people don’t and what’s worse, don’t want to remember the meaning of that historic day.
This past September 11th, I had the privilege of being at the Pentagon during the dedication ceremony of the Pentagon September 11th memorial. At the ceremony, in a fashion only the military can do, I saw the families and survivors honor the sacrifices of those that perished. The survivors of the attacks were also honored for their response and service. It was moving and emotional for both we attendees and particularly the families.
The Pentagon memorial is a series of benches with the names of each of the 184 individuals that perished inscribed on them. The benches are arranged in age order from the youngest victim to the oldest. I stopped for awhile at the bench of Dana Falkenberg, she was 3 years old. My daughter is almost three. From Maryland, Dana was traveling with her father Charles. My thoughts drifted to the brutal cruelty of what happened to her and that she was robbed of her entire life by a group of mass murders. A horror inflicted upon her entire family and upon our nation.
When I got home, I looked at the Washington DC papers and was appalled. Not one paper had any reference to September 11, 2001 on the front page. I looked on the internet and checked the New York, Washington DC and Philadelphia papers and found the same lack of attention paid to the anniversary of the worst attack in our nations history. On the seventh anniversary of September 11th, their front pages were dominated with hurricane, Presidential politics and other news. While important, I would argue that on that particular day those news articles lacked the significance of the Terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
I watched TV that night, some news channels covered the memorial services and some discussed the fact that it was the seventh anniversary but none seemed to be dedicated to truly memorializing the historic events of that day. One channel replayed the film United 93, which always makes my blood boil but most news channels had other programming. What a shame.
Despite the current political climate you would think our nations’ media and people would demand that September 11th be treated with more importance than as an afterthought.
Let’s face it, despite the terrorist propaganda, 2974 of our citizens were murdered and thousands were injured for doing nothing more than showing up for work or traveling on a plane. Whether you were in New York, Washington DC, Shanksville, PA or elsewhere those events redefined our nations history and changed the way we do business as individuals and as a nation. It deserves better treatment than a sound bite or passing commentary.
The Philadelphia Inquirer ran an editorial entitled “Still Not Safe” leading off with a description of the movie Traitor about an extremist Muslim operator in the US trying to blow up 50 buses. The editorial went on to extol about how we are still not safe and much work needs to be done in the area of terrorism and national security. In due course, the editorial also took a shot at the Iraq war and the belief that “the war was never about fighting terrorists”.
Maybe the paper should go back to 2002-2003 time frame and think about where we were and what we were all thinking. As a reminder, we were in a state of constant threats and vigilance with a terrorist propaganda machine capitalizing on the havoc they just wrought. Unfortunately most people don’t remember that time, it’s easier to forget or dismiss that time frame as a bad dream. Arguably mistakes were made in fighting the War in Iraq and work always needs to be done with regard to our national security. The fact is we will never be completely safe as long as bad guys and madman are on this earth. We will also never be truly safe with a mindset that chooses to forget instead of remember and learn.
The editorial finishes with “It’s been seven years. Many improvements have been made. But there are still gaps in intelligence, emergency response, funding, and cooperation among government agencies that have not been properly addressed since 9/11. That’s a poor memorial to the terrorists’ victims”.
While you can argue the merits of those statements, was it the best forum to write such an editorial on that day? Perhaps an editorial about the bravery showed on September 11th, 2001 or the affect that day has had on the victims was a better topic. Either way, all should take note that not a single terrorist incident has occurred on US soil since September 11, 2001 and many have been disrupted by good police, intelligence work and by the brave efforts of the US military.
Whether we like it or not, September 11th happened and we were forever changed as individuals and a nation. We can not and should not allow it to be dismissed from our thoughts and memories as a scary dream that we have awoke from. On that day, like no other, our neighbors, friends and citizens were murdered by people that still walk this Earth and continue to dream about destroying the “Great Satan”. Those that suffered the worse live with those thoughts everyday. They rise and sleep dreaming about a loved one or a time when they had peace knowing that tomorrow they would see their families or friend.
There was another time when the United States was attacked, not by a group of crazy murders but by a nation. The result was a full mobilization of our nation and everyone contributing to the effort. News coverage of the attack and the ensuing war were heard every night on the radio and watched in every theatre as news reels before the movie. That attack also occurred on a day when people were going about their lives not expecting a tragedy to occur. On December 7, 1941 as planes attacked our naval base at Pearl Harbor, the country was also surprised and we lost over 2402 brave military service members and another 1282 were injured. If you go to Peal Harbor today, you can visit the Tomb of several hundred of those lost souls, buried in the USS Arizona under the sea. To this day, survivors of that ship request and are granted the privilege of being buried with their shipmates. After 67 years, oil from the ship still leaks to the top of the water and you can see the outline of their watery grave.
At Ground Zero, while construction continues, you can still see the giant gapping hole that is the burial ground for thousands of victims never recovered. If you go to Shanksville, you can see the hole United 93 created upon impact and a makeshift memorial still stands as it did in the days after the attack. When you visit the Pentagon, you can see the new stone that was used to fix the entire side of the Pentagon that had collapsed and below that stone is a burned piece that was left to highlight the damage that attack wrought. These symbols are fresh and only a mere seven years old.
Dana Falkenberg would have been 10 years old on this last anniversary. She would have been in grammar school, making friends and enjoying her life as a child. How can we forget her?
The only fitting memorial we can give Dana and the other 2973 victims is to always remember. That would be the fitting memorial they deserve.