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A whole cohort doesn’t remember Sept. 11, 2001 — not personally.
Surely, they’ve heard about it. It is part of American history, and history is taught in the schools these young folks attend.
In some ways, because of the documentation now available of that fateful day and the nearly two decades of repercussions, the students might know more of the facts than others.
But, for a memory of what it was like, they depend on older generations to tell the story. And that story should be told and retold; it’s a never-ending lesson.
It was 18 years ago this coming Wednesday when a band of terrorists brought down four commercial airliners, silencing the skies across America. The Federal Aviation Administration grounded all aircraft, meaning no flights in or out of Ketchikan. The familiar buzz of floatplanes went quiet, too, offering none of the regularly scheduled flights to other islands or the typical flights for cruise ship passengers between here and the Misty Fjords.
The unfolding of the day’s events started around 5 a.m. here, with video on national news networks showing the first of the jets being steered into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.
As Ketchikan watched, the second jet did the same, essentially confirming that the first had not been an accident.
Then came the third jet plunging into the Pentagon.
Just before the FAA’s directive took effect, the fourth airliner — despite a passenger uprising against the terrorists on board — went into a Pennsylvania field, which wasn’t its intended target. Thanks to the passengers, that target was never realized.
The news media covered the resulting confusion, all the while offering more questions than answers. It showed the towers coming down and the desperate attempts to survive or to rescue. It also showed the thick blackened air, but even the media couldn’t deliver the smell in the streets of New York City that reportedly followed.
First responders proved their true grit as they went to the towers, some of the early arrivals dying as they became trapped in falling debris.
As dust hung thick in the air, a search for survivors started at the towers. A miracle happened occasionally, but most of the lost turned out to be deceased.
America proceeded to grieve, bury, memorialize and rebuild.
That reconstruction included new ways of doing things, particularly at airports. The Transportation Security Administration was created, and its workforce started screening all passengers and their belongings, and only passengers were allowed to proceed to gates. (No more hellos or goodbyes at arrival and departure points in the concourses). Rules regarding items not allowed in carry-on luggage included box cutters, one of the items used by the terrorists to gain control over flight crews in the 9-11 attacks.
America collectively had lost its innocence, its trust, and its liberty to some extent. It became suspicious of even the blameless.
At the same time, the tragedy drove Americans together. One striking example was the record turnout at churches, synagogues and other places of worship in the weeks following. Not just in funeral services either, but attendance in houses of worship increased dramatically.
This conveyed a real sense of unity. It wasn’t only in terms of compassion, but an appreciation for America and the blessings here. Americans — despite their religious differences — acted as one, caring for one another as if the attack had been on one’s person and sending aid from as far away as Ketchikan and Alaska. It was an outpouring needed particularly for the attack’s survivors, with wounds both seen and unseen.
For a while, evidence showed Americans pulling together for the same side, the American side — all colors, political parties, believers, as well as the rich and the poor. Sheer resilience shined through in New York, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia and in the farthest reaches of the country. The enemy — at least for a period — wasn’t the American who had a different life experience on which to base opinions and decisions.
To be plain, it was nice, real nice.
Its prudent to make time each September 11th to stop and think about the event of that name in 2001. It displayed the worst in human beings, but brought out the best.
The time for that reflection is here for 2019. The anniversary is only days away, but this weekend has been set aside to mark the National Days of Prayer and Remembrance for Sept. 11, 2001.
Think about it. Pray about it. Learn from it, and move forward in a way that honors and respects the lives lost. The lessons at their expense should be remembered always.