Three hours into the 9/11 memorial service in New York, they are still reading the names of the nearly 3,000 people who died on September 11, 2001. I watched the first 30 or 40 minutes at work, then kept it on in the background as I reluctantly started my to-do list. Every now and then, I open that browser tab, un-mute the live feed, and listen to the names. It seems disrespectful to turn it off.
The non-stop feed online of pictures of that day, planes slamming into the towers, clouds of smoke, screams, panic, fear, the terror of that day, is hard to watch. I have seen videos and photos of the people who jumped from the towers, or people crowded at the windows of the top floors of the buildings, nowhere to go, and obviously knowing it.
There are comments under these photos and videos urging people to take them down, but I disagree. We need to see it. We need to remember it.
This terrorist attack by hateful cowards happened 18 years ago, just yesterday in the timeline of our country’s history, and what was learned? What changed? For a few weeks after the attacks, it was trendy to wave a flag, wear red-white-and-blue, call ourselves Americans. Then…quickly…we started to forget.
It didn’t take long for the collective attention span to run out. Standing together, one nation, unity were shrugged off to return to division and segmentation. It’s become fashionable to put down the United States, disrespect our country, and denounce being American. To drain our nation’s resources, take all you can get, then sneer and walk away without appreciation, thanks, or even a token gesture to pay back what was taken out.
How did this happen? How did we as a nation fall so far, so fast?
Is patriotism dead? Not for me. I still remember the horror and disbelief of September 11, 2001, but I also remember how unified we felt as a country after the attacks, how we were able to draw together, help each other, lean on each other, honor those who had died, and how important it was to show the terrorists that we were one, we were not destroyed, and we would not let those who died ever be forgotten.
Over time, though, this country splintered into seemingly irreparable fragments. Insulting each other over political beliefs and scoring cheap shots for party vs. party is more important than acting in the greater good of our nation.
Listening to the names being read at the memorial service today is difficult because of the senseless, horrifying way they died, and the agony that people who love them still wrestle with today. I can hear it in their voices, see it on their faces.
But it’s also hard because each of those people, each name being read, is a person who is vilely disrespected with the behavior of Americans today. If the bloody sacrifice of almost 3,000 innocent people can’t make people in this country straighten up, work together, and find common ground for this nation; can’t force them to open their eyes and cast aside petty nonsense for a unified front; and doesn’t drive people to want to make this a better country, instead of sitting on their useless asses and spewing venom about it while offering no viable suggestions for improvement…then what hope do we have? And, more importantly, why do so many people accept this and make no attempt to change this?
I know I am not alone. I know I am not the only one watching the memorial service today and finding it just as hard as last year, the year before, and the year before that, hearing the names, one after another, and feeling the enormity of the loss of that day. I am not the only who observed a moment of silence at 8:46 AM. I am not the only one whose chest tightened at the sight of the flag during the procession to Ground Zero, with pride, grief, and the fury of knowing this country deserves better from its own people.
Don’t let “Never forget” become a cutesy slogan. Act it. Live it. And remember.