I still remember where I was 18 years ago. It was a Tuesday morning at a prayer retreat. The morning session had just begun when someone came in and gave us news that a tower had been hit in New York City.
Not knowing anything else at the time, we stopped to pray for New York, then went on with our session. At the end of the session, it was over as far as any further format for the retreat. We heard of the second tower being hit. I called my wife and heard her say the towers were collapsing. The rest of the day was spent huddled around a TV seeing images that blew our minds.
It was a moment in time where something so shocking happened you can probably pinpoint what you were doing when you first heard. A previous generation can say that with MLK’s assassination or JFK’s assassination.
I can still remember being in junior high and hearing the news of Reagan being shot.
There are those moments in our collective memories that are seared in. Even after the shock, that moment is there.
It is now there for many of us… and not there for another generation. For our kids and grandkids, it’s a history lesson. That’s incredibly difficult to believe. It’s “only” 18 years, but there are so many I could ask today about where they were and I’d get blank stares. They weren’t born… or they were in kindergarten… or 3rd grade…
But our current climate arises out of this day. What our kids know as “how things work” is something we know as, “That’s not how it was.” But, we’ve forgotten many of those things. We’ve been in the habit of long TSA lines at the airport, so we may have to work to remember what it was like meeting someone at the gate. There are routines that were disrupted and re-oriented in our lives.
We are still debating the role of troops in places where we have been fighting for 17-18 years now. We’ve been “at war” for that long, but the new reality of life and how we can keep insulating ourselves has insulated us from the reality of the length of war, the cost of the injured, and the effect that has on those in their 20s and 30s who have served or are serving in the military.
We will never get our heads wrapped around the cost of the length of this war on human life and mentality. The cost of healthcare for first responders in New York City alone… then all the soldiers who were wounded and the ongoing care they deserve for the rest of their lives… The TRILLIONS of dollars that will cost out of a war that is still running…
The toll on our national psyche in our dream of “safety” and how that is impacting our policies on immigration and economics doesn’t really hit us. We have ways we respond today to the global economy and being more isolated, or how we view immigration, and they stem directly from this day 18 years ago. We need to understand this and work through it.
We have to remember. We need to mourn. We’ve never really mourned nationally. When this day is brought up, there is a backlash of “politicizing” this day. It’s probably because we don’t want the emotions all over again, when the sense of those emotions may be exactly what we need to be able to truly grieve and get that grief through our collective system. Instead, we just boil in anger…
We need to remember and keep reminding others. I want to remember those towers and how they were in the back of my mind earlier in my life as I watched shows or movies based in New York and how drastically that looks when I see a movie or show set in New York today.
I think of the lives lost. The hopelessness we felt that day. The week after when we realized something in our hearing had changed because planes weren’t flying and it was a new kind of quiet all around us. We felt the change in the air. I don’t want to forget those sudden shifts.
The people in the towers, the folks at the Pentagon, those passengers and crew on Flight 93 over Pennsylvania… lives taken from us. A normal work day. A normal travel day. Those lives gone. Families altered. Life plans changed. Mental shifts we made and then moved on.
We need to remember.