It’s a day to stop and think about the bravery it must have taken for first responders in lower Manhattan to watch the first tower collapse, then run up the stairs into the second tower to try to rescue survivors.
I started forming the thoughts for this story a few weeks ago. My plan was to publish it last week, but as with so many things lately, time got away from me. So, here we sit on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
In some ways, September 11th is just another day of the year. Kids go to school, banks are open. That’s similar to another day with a dark history, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. September 11th is an incredibly impactful day for me each year, even if it’s not quite the same for my children’s generati0n. Maybe that’s the way Pearl Harbor was for my grandfather’s generation.
At any rate, I was honestly surprised at just how many “20th anniversary of 9/11” mentions I’ve seen. TV shows, newspaper articles, deep dives, tick-tock minute-by-minute breakdowns of the day. As I read each one, I realized why 9/11 will always be different for me than Pearl Harbor, Martin Luther King Day and many other incredibly important days in the history of our country. Living through that day brings with it for me an urgency to share that experience with those who weren’t yet alive to remember how it felt as events unfolded.
It really started to solidify in my head when I read an article where Andy Card, then Chief of Staff for President Bush walked through whispering in the President’s ear that America was under attack. I remember that President Bush was in an elementary school classroom when he learned this wasn’t a simple accident. Heck, I can still see the image on the TV updating us where he was and when he was in the air. There was so much uncertainty in that moment.
I can’t say that my feelings are changed about 9/11. It might be more appropriate to say that they are crystallized. When I see all the extra coverage of 9/11 this year, I wonder why the 20th anniversary should be any different than the 19th? After all, is the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, later this year, any more significant than last year?
Whether you supported the war in Afghanistan or not, the timing brings to mind the obvious point. There are soldiers who fought and paid the ultimate price on behalf of our country who weren’t alive on September 11th, 2001. Did their parents help put into context the fear and helplessness so many of us felt that day? I remember how vulnerable I felt. And, when our family visited the Flight 93 Memorial, my tears flowed freely as I processed that day all over again. Even as I sit here and read those words from 6 years ago I find myself shedding new tears.
As we arrive at the 20th anniversary of 9/11, it’s clear to me now more than ever that those of us who experienced that day play a key role in future generations understanding what that day meant. It’s not just a day to remember those we lost and to decry terrorism. It’s a day to stop and think about the bravery it must have taken for first responders in lower Manhattan to watch the first tower collapse, then run up the stairs into the second tower to try to rescue survivors. In that moment, they had to know there was a reasonable chance they wouldn’t make it back down those stairs.
Twenty years later, the bravery of those first responders is matched only by a seemingly random group of individuals on a plane bound ultimately for a field in rural Pennsylvania. In that moment, I’m sure many of them were aware of the sacrifice they were making to protect fellow Americans they didn’t know. The significance of that has never been lost on me.
I’ve rambled quite a bit, so I’ll close with a simple thought. If you remember 9/11, if you lived through that day, make sure you share those thoughts with your son/daughter/niece/nephew/neighborhood kid. Take a few minutes and pass on the significance of that day in a way no television show or newspaper article can.