A few days ago, I was scanning through some Facebook posts when I came across a question that made my blood boil: “Why do Americans dwell on 9/11?”
I wasn’t sure whether it was posted out of ignorance, malice, or both. I started to reply — and then I realized I wasn’t sure what to say. Now, as I watch and listen to the annual reading of the victims’ names at Ground Zero — as I do every year — I will try to explain.
Of course, I can’t speak for all Americans. I can only speak for myself. So I will start by saying that as someone with family that has survived recent wars, I am well aware that there are places in the world where events the magnitude of Nine-Eleven, and worse, happen every single day. Given that, I can see why some people can’t understand — and some may even resent — America’s preoccupation with the terrorist attacks on our country on September 11, 2001.
That being stated, here’s why I will never forget that day, or the days, weeks, months and years that followed. I will never forget it because I was living and working in the New York City suburbs on that fateful day. Like millions of Americans, I witnessed the horror and devastation on TV as it unfolded. Watched in horror as the planes struck and bodies fell from the wreckage of the Twin Towers less than 30 miles from home. Screamed as the buildings collapsed, another hijacked plane hit the Pentagon and the heroes of United Airlines Flight 93 paid the ultimate price for averting further devastation. Wept as the world changed.
I will never forget it because I was a reporter tasked with writing about the aftermath of the terrorist attacks and their effects in the small, tight-knit community of Rye, N.Y. There were so many stories of close calls and tremendous loss. There so much sadness. So much grief. So much anger. There were so many tales of heroism. And there were tales of resolve.
In the face of tremendous adversity, we were united. On that day, and in the weeks that followed, all lives mattered. There was no black versus white. There was no left versus right. We were all Americans. We helped those in need regardless of their race, religion, gender or political ideology. We stood as one.
Today I grieve for strangers. I also grieve for friends who were directly affected by the tragic events that transpired 16 years ago. I grieve for my country — a country ravaged by divisiveness and hate.
On September 11, 2001, and every year since, we have sounded the rallying cry, “Never forget.”
I am afraid we already have.