Soon, the news will be repeat with the anniversary of 9–11. What? 9–11? I’ve heard of it — and know it’s part of American history. Just over 20% of the population of the US is 20 and under. That means 20% will not only never forget, they don’t know what they are supposed to forget.
Take a step back. When I was growing up, people said, “I remember where I was when JFK was assassinated.” I don’t remember. I do remember when the Oklahoma City bomber struck. I do remember when the Challenger exploded after takeoff. I remember 9–11.
I was stationed at Malmstrom AFB in Montana and was in my office. A unit member came into my office and said, “Sir, turn on your TV.” As a commander, I had a TV in my office and did so. The first tower has just been struck. Then the next. Then the Pentagon. There is more to this story, but that’s not what this article is about.
We said we wouldn’t forget. Unfortunately we have. Yes, it’s in the history books. Yes, the press will feature story after story. I am 100% sure when we said we wouldn’t forget — we meant that we wouldn’t forget except once a year. Those who died don’t deserve such a nonchalance approach — and certainly the 2,000 plus sons and daughters who died in combat don’t deserve our thinking in 2021; and the hundreds of thousands of veterans don’t deserve our ‘well, that’s done” attitude.
Time passes so quickly. Did you know that in 2001, the Abiocor artificial heart was invented? Did you know that the term “burner phone” or disposable cell phone was invented? Just go ahead a few year, those who are just 15 know about the Tesla Roadster. Those who are just 14, have lived in iPhone times. Those who are 10 or 11 know about iPads and liposuction. Those who are just 5 know about the hoverboard or tie-less shoes or Alexa. Time passes and what were realities are just memories or what we think of as “life as we know it.”
In modern time (let’s discount the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 or the Mexican-American War), there hasn’t been an attack on the US homeland for a century beyond our boarders. An attack on our homeland. We’ve seen a couple of other domestic or foreign acts of terrorism but this was the so-called attack on our homeland from afar.
I remember it so well. American flags everywhere. Unity of American citizens regardless of the political stripe. One common cause.. one common goal. Then, I remember that the unity lasted about two years and the seeds of discord came into play. Five years and that discord re-emerged; and just 10 years ago, the political polarization became commonplace — even the norm.
I long for that unity.
I bet you do too.
Now that I have been off-message; let me bring it back full circle. We said we wouldn’t’ forget all that we lost in fellow citizens. We have. While it may not have been deliberate; as a nation, the observances of 9–11 have become more about today’s impact and less about the lives lost. We’re forgotten what it was like in America before 9–11. Remember how travel by plane or train was before 9–11? Remember when we didn’t wear an employee or visitor badge in nearly every organization we live and work around? Remember when we could go into any Federal or State or County building without a metal detector or screening mechanism? I do.
Let’s not forget. Let’s take time to remember and share those who perished in a way that is meaningful. Let’s take time to remember and share what it was like when our world was simpler and safe. Let’s take time to remember and share how our world should not think as much about the threats that surround us; but instead think about the importance of that simpler life that was before 9–11.
Pause. Remember those lost in a few days. Pause. Remember that our world was changed twenty years ago and we can’t recapture that — we can remember in a way that strengthens our union like it was on 9–11… let’s not call it bipartisan.. let’s call it citizenship.