So I’m on the train into Manhattan trying to write, but can’t concentrate because a large family from out of town is sitting in front of me. At first I was slightly annoyed because I thought I had placed myself in the quiet car (evidently not) but now I find my opinion changed. I’m pointing out all the landmarks along the Hudson River to them – West Point, Bannerman’s Castle, Storm King Mountain, Bear Mountain Bridge, Yankee Stadium – and telling them places they should check out once we get into Grand Central – the whisper wall, Rockefeller Center, Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, Bryant Park, New York Public Library, Fifth Ave shopping, Central Park – and telling them how to get there. After I finished this, the little boy said to his parents: “I wish we lived in New York. It’s so cool!”
And I feel really blessed and fortunate that I do live here.
My tribute to September 11 comes a few days late. Why? Because by now, three days after the ten-year anniversary, people have gone back to their everyday lives. This is a good thing. Living our lives and not capitulating to terror is the only way we can truly win. But, ten years later, I do think some people have started to forget.
Forget is a harsh word. No one can ever forget when something that atrocious happens. But it fades. The anger. The pain. It slips to the back of your mind, particularly if you were not there.
I wasn’t in the city when the towers came down. I wasn’t in DC. I wasn’t in Pennsylvania. I, by the grace of God, did no loose anyone. But this is not to say I wasn’t affected. My father was in 7 World Trade (the nearby building that collapsed later that day) the week before the attack. As an FBI agent, he was at the site constantly after the attack. I remember coming home that day and watching the footage on the news like it was fake. I remember my mother ready to collect all her medical gear and charge down the Manhattan to lend a hand as an extra nurse at the hospitals. But they told her not to bother. Hospitals weren’t inundated with victims. Most patients were first responders with minor injuries. Everyone else was already dead.
We were all affected on that day. Whether you lived in NYC or the Mid-West or Europe. Those terrorist attacks changed the face of the entire world as we knew it. Don’t believe me? Have you ever been in an airport recently? If you have, you might have been annoyed by the excessive security. I have. It’s tiresome. It takes hours. There are privacy issues. But I’m sure the families of 9/11 victims would rather have had the extra security that day.
It’s easy to go about our lives. And honestly, the victims and heroes would want us to do just that. But they wouldn’t want us to forget. They wouldn’t want the memories to fade while we do.
Should we dwell on it? No. But every once in a while it’s good to remember the pain. It’s good to remember the anger. It’s good to remember the heroism. Stephen Siller, the firefighter who ran from Brooklyn to Manhattan in full gear and died saving others wants us to remember. Todd Beamer, the man who told the other passengers of Flight 93 “let’s roll” and saved the Capitol Building and hundreds of lives when they stormed the terrorists, wants us to remember. All people involved on that day want us to remember. Because that’s how we unite. And in uniting, we fight back. In uniting, we protect. In uniting, we win.
In uniting, we become Americans.