Eighteen years ago today, we lived in Connecticut.
It felt like an ordinary day. Absolutely ordinary. Until it wasn't. For some reason, I was home that day which is unusual. Someone called and told me to turn on the television. And what I saw, what we all saw, changed the lives of everyone in this country forever.
As I stood there in the living room, motionless, watching that first tower, unable to fully comprehend what I was seeing, youngest son came in the room. I pointed at the television, silently. He stood beside me, his ready smile, turning to confusion in an instant. Together, we watched in disbelief as another plane crashed into the second tower. Very slowly, youngest soon, sat down. Eyes never leaving the screen, he whispered to me, "Are we at war?"
I will never forget that. Ever.
The aftermath was chaos. I tried so hard to remain calm even though I was frantic to touch base with everyone I loved. I tried to call the other boys, Tim (who was at work), my parents, my sister but the phone lines were a mess. I felt so helpless. Like everyone else, I needed clarity, What was going on? What was happening? What can I do to help? And then, what happens next?
And now it's 18 years later and we have recovered but the scars remain and they are deep. And they probably should be. I am willing to bet that everyone who was old enough to remember that time, has it indelibly carved into their memory of exactly where they were that day. Some things need to be remembered.
Not just the horror of it, all those innocent lives lost. But also what came afterward. The the courage and bravery of those First Responders who, while everyone else was either frozen in place or running away from the tragedy, ran toward it without a second's thought for their own safety. We need to remember not just the event, not just the martyrs but also the heroes.
And the resilience and strength of the people of this country who didn't let this unspeakable tragedy define us. Once the clouds of confusion passed, once the shock and disbelief cleared away, we stood firm, we got angry, we stepped up and decided that we would not let this break us. We decided to keep moving forward.
Eighteen years is a long time I suppose, but I was surprised to learn very recently, that to the youngest generation, the kids who were either too young to remember or not yet born at the time, 9/11 means no more to them than reading about the Civil War in their history books. In my mind, my heart, my soul, it is a moment that is frozen in time forever. But they don't share that history. They didn't have that moment. They can respect it, but they cannot fully appreciate the significance of it because they didn't live through it.
Thank goodness for that. I hope they never do. I hope no other generation in this country ever has to experience anything remotely like 9/11 and they remain blissfully ignorant of those raw emotions forever. And I understand the desire to protect them from the ugly truth of it. And to protect ourselves by pushing that memory to the back and not forcing ourselves to relive it.
But it's so dang important that the next generations know about 9/11. We need to talk about it. We need to help them know about it from a personal point of view, not just what is written in their history books. If you recall your public school history lessons, you will remember that it's merely a matter of memorizing an endless stream of names, dates and places to pass a test. It's all very academic, very dry, very- dare I say it - boring. And 9/11 was anything but that.
I've always loved history. To me it's not just that name/date/place thing that most people associate with it, but it's about people. Real people who lived real lives. And still I never fully appreciated the time in history that we now refer to as the holocaust until I had the opportunity to be a guest at several talks by people who were alive in that time, people who were prisoners in those camps, people who lived in those countries and experienced it first hand. Hearing their personal stories touched me, impacted me, in a way that all of the history books and movies in the world never could. But there are fewer and fewer of those folks still around to tell their stories and that makes it easier to forget.
And that's how I know the importance of sharing our stories with each other, yes, because we get it. But also with the younger generations who are blissfully ignorant of that terrible time.so It is vitally important that they know how personal that time was. They need to hear the real stories by the real people who experienced the real tragedies in real life. It wasn't a movie or a TV show or a paragraph in a history book. It was real life.
Not to frighten them, not to bore them with "old" stories, not to make them feel guilty for being fortunate enough to have escaped it, but so that it truly will never be forgotten. Never Forget.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.