Twelve years ago, I was living in Philadelphia and working in Dover, De.. I am lucky to say that at that time I knew only one person directly affected by the events of that day. I, like most people who lived or worked near the impacted areas of the country, have small stories of how the events touched our lives. At the time I was living with a Philadelphia firefighter and I remember how angry and frustrated he was that could not go to New York to help. While I have not been to the site of the WTC since that day, I am now reminded daily of the events of 9/11/01.
I have lived in Virginia for the past 9 years. It is impossible not to know someone who worked in DC on that day. Many will only talk briefly of the day, mostly of their attempts to get home to family; many will talk in detail about the events. Since November I have been making the daily commute into the city. For most of that time my contact with the Pentagon has been a bus that drops off at or near the bus bays and then crosses the Memorial Bridge by the Lincoln Memorial. As we would travel on 27 past the side of the building where the 9/11 Memorial rests, near where the plane hit the building I would often wonder what it must have been like to be on that road when the plane hit or going past the scene in the weeks and months that followed. In the past 6 weeks because I choose to slug to save money and the best place to catch a ride in the afternoon is at the Pentagon, I have become intimately familiar with that area. Because it is supposed to be in the mid 90's today I decided I didn't feel like standing in the hot sun in the slug line so I took the bus - also because part of me really didn't want to be anywhere near the Pentagon on 9/11. The bus I took this morning drops off at the Pentagon perimeter but then immediately returns to 395 to cross the 14th street bridge - the site of another plane crash albeit nearly 30 years ago. However this morning there was an accident on the bridge that had things backed up so the driver made a loop around the Pentagon to go to the Memorial Bridge. This took us very close to the section of the building into which the plane crashed. Twelve years on you would never know that a portion of the outer rings of this massive office building had been destroyed. The morning light was just so that you could barely discern the difference in the stone color - not that big of a deal around here considering the most visible monument in the city is two different colors due to its construction during the Civil War - War Between the States or War of Northern Aggression depending on your point of view - being temporarily halted. It made me realize that there is a good portion of our population that has no memory of the most recent attack on our shores.
Seniors in high school and freshman in college were barely school aged when this occurred and children below 5th grade have grown up in a post 9/11 world - it is all they know. The rest of us, however, remember when it was easy to get on a plane or to have a loved one meet you at the airport. Trivial things I realize but unless you live or work in an area like DC that is one of the few daily reminders most now have of a post 9/11 world. I too am a generation removed from a direct attack by a foreign government on American soil. I was born 22 years after Pearl Harbor. When I was young we would remember Pearl Harbor day, but only as a footnote in history, will the same thing happen to 9/11? Others would argue this is different - Pearl Harbor was an act of aggression directed to a military installation as a means of gaining a foothold in the Pacific while the attacks on 9/11 were aimed not as an imperialistic act limited to a small area but as an attack on a way of life. Now, 73 years later Pearl Harbor is barely mentioned - perhaps a wreath laying ceremony somewhere gets a short news blip, if there is time. Will the same thing happen in 2074 on 9/11? I believe this is different - this is something we should remember. This happened because there are parts of the world in which Americans are hated. Not because we sit quietly by and allow nations to work out their own issues, but because we feel we have to be involved it their problems, whether it is our business or not. We aren't hated simply because we exist but because of our actions. Does that justify what happened? Not in the least - these people were extremists and frankly, insane. However we need to be mindful of why it happened and make every effort to not make the same mistakes again. We should not forget all the innocent people who died,the NYFD firefighters who lost their lives simply doing their jobs or the thousands of men and women now lying in graves or severely wounded because of the aftermath of these events. But we should foremost keep in mind the words of George Santayana; "Those who cannot remember the past..."
This was not intended to be a political statement but more my musings on living in an area so impacted by such a terrible act and how we should not allow it to become a brief footnote to history.