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10 August 2009

It's Time for All Americans to Truly Remember What Happened on Sept. 11, 2001

In just a month, America will pause yet again to remember the tragic day that gripped the world on Sept. 11, 2001.

Lest we forget — and sadly, there are many who have already forgotten this — on that fateful day, 2,974 lives were lost, including 343 New York City firefighters, 23 New York City police officers and 37 Port Authority police officers. Lest we forget, we will pause to remember the more than 200 people who decided that rather than burn to their death in fires that some estimate were in the thousands of degrees, it would be a better option to jump more than 1,000 feet to their ultimate death.

Lest we forget, we will pause to remember the more than 650 people from just one company — Cantor Fitzgerald — who lost their lives on that day. We will pause to remember the pilots, flight attendants, innocent children, business travelers, vacationers who boarded planes in Boston, Portland, Maine,  Newark, N.J.  and Washington, D.C., and never returned home to their loved ones, to their jobs, to their daycare centers, to their friends.

Lest we forget, we will pause to remember the brave men and women of Flight 93, who knew they were going to be the missile that launched either into the White House or the Capitol — and who instead decided their own fate by taking over that United Airlines airplane, bringing it down into a field in that small Pennsylvania town whose name we’ll likely never forget, Shanksville.

Lest we forget, we will pause to remember the rescue workers who have since died because of their selfless work, looking to find the remains of those who perished before them.

We are eight years removed from that awful day, and yet somehow, many Americans — including some New Yorkers — pass by the site that once held the Twin Towers as though it were any plot of land being “built upon,” and not a sacred space where all those lives were senselessly lost.

We are eight years removed from that terrible day, and yet somehow — this blows the mind — there is not a permanent memorial yet built where the World Trade Center Towers once stood.

We are eight years removed from that day of carnage, and yet somehow, the mastermind of the entire plot, Osama bin Laden, still has not been captured and brought to justice for the lives he took without just cause. Yet still, there are some who fail to remember this. There are some who have completely forgotten about bin Laden and what he did that day.

We are eight years removed from that day of terror, when more than 10,000 people were able to escape the fires, falling debris, broken glass … only to become covered with that grey dust from head to toe — that same dust that turned day into night twice as both towers crumbled into shredded pieces of steel.

We are eight years removed from that day when so many, to save their lives, fled up streets, ducked into doorways and stores, hid underneath cars and inside cars, not knowing if they’d make it out alive — how could they know whether they’d be hit with fallen steel or other debris?

Yes, we are eight years removed from Sept. 11, 2001. And while there hasn’t been a terrorist attack on American soil since that day, we are a nation filled with so many people who forget what that day felt like — for those who lost someone and even for those who didn’t, but who nonetheless lived through the day’s events. So many have forgotten about that car ride or ferry ride home that Tuesday afternoon that took what probably seemed like an eternity. So many have forgotten about that awful smell that surrounded Ground Zero, Lower Manhattan, Jersey City, Hoboken and parts of Brooklyn for months after the attack — a smell which a combination of burning metal, debris, paper, wood, other elements and yes, human flesh.

In just an instant on Sept. 11, 2001, so much changed. Many said the day was one they’d not only never forget, but it was a day they’d grow from. This writer, who was just a few miles away from the World Trade Center that day — in Downtown Jersey City, N.J. — hasn’t forgotten a single detail about that day, down the most minute details of what I was wearing that day, what I had to eat and drink, what I listened to on the radio, what I saw and smelled.

Sadly, though, eight years removed from Sept. 11, 2001, there are those who have completely forgotten about that day and what it meant to this country.

Take a look at the pictures posted around these words — and if you’re one of those people, ask yourself “how?” The pictures don’t lie — nor do the words that recall that day. It’s a day no one should ever forget.

And it’s a day, the likes of which we should never have to face again. Yet the more we forget history, the more we are likely to repeat it, as the old saying goes.

It’s time for everyone, in all walks of life, to truly remember what happened on Sept. 11, 2001.

That time starts now.

Click here to read my reflections on the seventh anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, from 2008.


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