It’s been 22 years. Two decades. They’ve gone by in a blink, and many of us have forgotten as those years have passed. Other troubles have come our way. Wars. The economy. Job loss. Politicians. Division, discord, disillusionment. The destruction of what it means to be a united country.
But we need to remember.
We need to remember the shock. We need to remember the tears. We need to remember our unity.
Twenty years ago, a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history.
The images are burned indelibly into memory – four hijacked American aircraft cut through a cloudless late summer sky; the World Trade Center plummeting to the earth; inky smoke billowing from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93, the call of “Let’s Roll” earning a place of immortality as heroes fought back against evil to spare further death and destruction.
Yet, I’d reckon the most heartbreaking images are those that only one or two of us have seen at any given time. These are the images of an empty seat at the dinner table. These are the images of children aging without a mother or a father.
The families of the 3,000 Americans who died that day go to bed every night with the knowledge that their husbands, wives, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and friends will never again walk through the doors of their homes.
They were taken. Taken too soon.
In that great time of need, our pettiness was forgotten. Our politics and prejudices cast aside. We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded aid and succor.
We reaffirmed our ties of simple humanity to one another. Community and country took precedent over class and political ideology. No matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we claimed, united as one American family we were.
Yet as time passed the old ways resurfaced, grievances reemerged, and squabbling returned. And today, 20 years after 9/11, this nation is arguably the most divided socially and ideologically it has been in its history.
But perhaps for a brief time we can stop our bickering. Perhaps for a brief time, a single day is all, we can remember our loss and the way it united us on that dark day and the uncertain ones that followed.
Perhaps we can remember those lives lost instead of being consumed by all our other faults.
Just for a day.
Because what happened on Sept.11, 2001, is one of the single most significant and tragic events in American history.
It must be respected. It must be remembered.
At least for a solitary day.
(Josh Beavers is an award-winning writer and author. He has earned more than 40 individual writing awards and is syndicated in 12 North Louisiana news journals. The Louisiana Press Association has recognized him five times for excellence in opinion writing, and he has earned numerous Best Investigative Reporting Awards and Freedom of Information Awards for exposure of governmental corruption in Webster Parish.)