The anniversary of September 11th, 2001 is one of the most painful memories in recent American history. For many of us who are 30 and under, it was the time we learned that we as Americans were just as vulnerable as the rest of the world. We learned the same lessons that day that the "Greatest Generation" learned nearly 71 years ago after the attacks on Pearl Harbor.
The thing that we should be asking ourselves is, have we reacted in a manner worthy of our predecessors?
They were called the Greatest Generation for a reason. Shortly after making it through the Great Depression, they banded together to defeat the Nazis and Japanese. If it were not for the sacrifices that they made, we'd probably be living in a very different nation today.
In 2001, I was in my freshman year of college. I was sitting in the commons area, waiting for my first class to start. An administrator brought in large tube television monitor and hooked it up a few minutes before 9:00 am. She turned the channel onto CNN as we all gathered around.
We watched live as the second plane slammed into the World Trade Center. The explosion was incredible. For the next hour and a half, we all stood motionless, listening to reports of the Pentagon. We listened to reporters talk to air traffic controllers and military experts. We watched the towers come down before our eyes.
The horrors of a few moments can shape a people forever. It certainly had an effect on me. For me, it was the turning point, from liberal youth to a more hawkish, conservative young adult. Many people were shaped by 9/11, as previous generations were shaped by other cataclysmic events. I’ve never forgotten that day. Not only are the images burned into my mind, but the substance, the flavor of that fear and anger are things that I'll never forget.
Today’s youngsters are a little different. Many of them were school children on September 11th. They grew up hearing a sanitized, politically correct version of 9/11. Many of them believe wild conspiracy theories, or worse, they believe America got what it deserved.
The real version of history sucks. I'd love for a different version to be true. I would love to think that America did not get caught with her proverbial pants around her ankles, but unfortunately, that is what happened. A group of militants that we never took seriously enough found a weakness and exploited it.
I think that as a nation, we are going to have to force ourselves to fight back against the urges of some to forget about it. We’re also going to have to fight back against the urging of those who want to look at it through some kind of sanitized and safe lens that would be less likely to offend people. To be perfectly blunt, we should not care who is offended. It is an important chapter in our history and culture, and we should make sure to tell it accurately.
Those that may be immigrants to this land that have no connection to the events of 9/11 should never be made to feel that they are part of the problem. However, at the same time, people should always remember that this is still a recent scar, and it stings when touched the wrong way.
We’re going to have to remember September 11th. If we shelter ourselves too much, especially the younger millennials coming up, we’ll end up doing more harm than good. If we censor it too much, if we try and find too many euphemisms, then we will rob ourselves of the ability to remember what happened on that day. Even worse, we’ll rob future generations of the ability to empathize with what happened, and therefore prevent it from happening again in the future.