“Never forget,” those words so easily spoken on anniversaries and holidays. What do they mean, do we even know what we are swearing to “Never Forget”? Do they mean the same thing to everyone? Is it even possible for it to mean the same thing to everyone? I think about these things and I wonder. We utter the words and usually go on with our lives. We remember them the next anniversary, but have we lived with that memory? Do we think about the impact of the event? How has it affected us individually? a family? a community? a country? I do not have the answers. I guess that is why I struggle with the annual utterances of, “Never Forget”. I am not entirely sure of the impact and significance of the event. I recognize it is significant, but I cannot measure how much.
I will remember and mourn for the dead. There were many that died directly and indirectly from this event. I will remember those souls and mourn the missed possibilities that existed within them and were taken away from us too soon. And mourn with those loved ones, who lost a soul, without the opportunity for one last goodbye or “I love you”.
I will remember and celebrate the examples of heroism. The members of the NYPD and NYFD that raced into that area, responding to a call to help preserve lives. This group broadened as the search parties included more and more people who exposed themselves to danger, searching for and trying to preserve more lives. The courage and selflessness of their acts deserve celebration
The thing I want to remember most is the unity. We pulled together as a nation because we felt attacked. For the first time in modern history, we felt vulnerable and not beyond the reach of those who would challenge our dominance. We needed that unity, to comfort us from the pain. That unity helped us replace the disruption and to carry on. That vow we made to never forget.
I do not want to carry with me the broad hate that emerged. The generalization that the action of a few carry the worth and value of the members of a religious community. Or that we can condemn the residents of a nation or a region based on the actions of a few. The negativity that surrounds the hatred only create opportunities to judge those around us that are part of our community, that can be hated under this generalization.
Twenty years later, I wonder what we truly remember. I question what we carry with us. Do we carry the positive aspects of this event? Would those who died want to be associated with an event that so separated and created hatred amongst us.
In a nation so fractured and divided across so many lines. What do we remember?