What I Want To Remember

For the past few weeks, I have been reminded frequently about the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. Newspaper stories, TV specials, websites, Facebook postings, flag displays,  special memorial services, even the Sunday comics have urged me to consider what happened 10 years ago today.

“Never forget,” I am told repeatedly.

But sometimes I wonder, “Exactly what should I remember?”

Of course, there are things I can’t forget. I can’t forget the early-morning phone call from my sister or the sound of her voice when she said, “We’re under attack—or something.” I can’t forget that when I turned on my television one tower was standing where there had always been two. I can’t forget watching the second tower crumble and implode into a giant ball of smoke and dust as people fled before it.

Last week I realized that my 13-year-old son didn’t really remember what happened on 9/11; he was not quite four years old at the time, and he primarily remembers images from television coverage and feeling confused about what he was seeing. So we sat together and watched the “Dateline” special program. From that he learned—and I remembered more clearly—that September 11 was just another date when that morning dawned, that no one understood what was happening as the events unfurled, that passengers on Flight 93 fought back, that firefighters rushed into burning buildings and toxic dust clouds, that thousands of children lost parents that day.

And he learned—and I remembered more clearly—that there were thousands of people who risked their own lives for strangers, who put themselves into dangerous situations in an attempt to help others, who fought against unwinnable odds and sacrificed themselves to prevent their plane from becoming a weapon. And I have decided that those are the stories I want to remember and to teach my children to remember.

Because of 9/11, we will never be able to forget that a few people in this world are willing to sacrifice their own lives to destroy people they do not even know.

But because of 9/11, we also know for sure that far more people in this world are willing to sacrifice their own lives to save people they do not even know, to provide comfort to strangers, to help someone who is hurting.

And that is the 9/11 I want to Never Forget.

September 11, 2011

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  1. Good post, Tammy. What you want to remember is what I want to remember, what I want my children to remember, and what I think all those media site postings-people want us to “Never Forget.” We were living in Michigan on 9/11/01, in the Eastern time zone, near Dearborn, which has the largest community of Middle Easterners outside of the Middle East. Although Paul and Sam don’t have vivid memories of it, they remember me picking them up when their school closed around 10 a.m. because no one knew what was happening. There are terrorist attacks all over the world, and I think all people generally respond likewise, regardless of the country or nationality. But the events of 9/11/01 in the U.S. reshaped, or perhaps rekindled, our American identity, deeply embedding in us the truth you state so clearly. Because this is so, I don’t think we have a choice: We can’t ever forget, nor should we.

  2. Thank you for so aptly putting into thoughts what so many feel. I know it was was very touching for you and Jonathan.