Memories are peculiar.
There are certain recent or distant moments that you can’t recall, no matter how hard you try. Something as simple as what you had for breakfast yesterday morning, or whether or not you fed the cat today, or even if you paid the electric bill this month, and you will be shocked to discover that you can’t recall all the details, if any.
There are other moments, however, that are indelible. They emblazon themselves in our minds. These moments are different for everyone, but they usually are made up of moments that impact our personal lives, our psyche, and affect the way we view the world. I have several of these moments stored in my permanent memory. I remember sitting with my third grade class as we watched the Challenger explode. I can picture myself sitting with my parents as we watched our country declare war and embark on Operation: Desert Storm. I can visualize my high school class watching the verdict of the OJ trial , and I remember the cacophony of responses in the room as the verdict was read. I also remember sitting in a bunker on 9-11-01 being trained in emergency 911 services as our country was brutally attacked that morning.
It’s a hard feeling to describe. I suppose it was a mixture of disbelief and awe. I just couldn’t fathom that someone had intentionally flown planes into our world trade centers. There had to be, I imagined, a non-aggresive explanation. After all, this was not something that was shocking or unusual to me. These kind of events happened all the time…in other countries. But not in my back yard. Suddenly, the fight was our doorstep, and that was a horrific feeling. It’s shocking enough when you hear that a restaurant in Dublin has been bombed, but when it happens in your backyard, that brings the fight to you, it makes it disturbingly real, and all your isolationist ideals become nonexistent. It was at that moment that I realized that America is not only the ally and muscle who will bravely come marching into your country to defend you from all those “foreign evils”, but we are a defender of our own nation as well. That had never truly sunk in, I suppose.
I had never seen such a devastating blow right here on our own shores. The saddest part about it was that from that point on, no parents could ever sit their child on their knee and say, “Don’t worry my child. It’s an evil world, but we’re safe here in the USA.” We’re not safe. Not here, not anywhere. 9/11 proved that, it forced us to accept that, and it made us realize that we must be ever vigilant. Other counties know this. They live that way, being ever cautious and vigilant, because that is what they must do to survive. It’s a way of life for them. Here in USA, we have the luxury of being indifferent, uninformed, and in a relaxed state much of the time. 9/11 temporarily made Americans become active participants in their country, their world, and their life. For months after 9/11, people flew American flags outside their houses. They displayed them on their cars, their clothing, their sports jerseys, and their highway overpasses. They were quick to report any and all suspicious activity, people, and vehicles. Our national pride skyrocketed. But, as quickly as it came, it disappeared again, at least for most people. The immediate pain and loss of 9/11 started to wane as our country healed. Life went on. The memories, however, stayed permanently burnt into our minds.
It’s my hope, as I sit here on the anniversary of 9/11, that those memories stay fresh. Even for those who did not witness it that day for various reasons, or for those who were too young to remember, I hope that the anniversary each year reminds them that we as Americans cannot afford to look though blinders and keep an isolationist attitude towards world events and politics. I hope it motivates and invigorates them to become active members of our American way of life, and realize that we must stay prepared, and ever watchful for all enemies, both foreign and domestic. I hope that those flags never stop waving, and that the intense patriotism and unified spirit felt on that day remain that solid.