Something happened once. It happened in a field. It happened in a pair of towering buildings in the middle of Manhattan. It happened in the capitol of a nation. It happened in all of these places, pretty much at the same time (well, all the same morning, anyway).
It was a grassroots effort. It started in the middle of nowhere. You probably cant pronounce the name of the place. The men behind it weren't executive, politicians, royalty (related, maybe, but didn't have the King's ear, you know?) - They were just men. A doctor, a group of students. The kind of people who stand on the plaza and protest with hand-lettered signs on Saturday afternoons.
But these men didn't picket. They didn't organize a rally. They weren't protesting police brutality, the military industrial complex, school board stacking, downsizing, for or against gays in the boyscouts. There was no march, there was no yelling, no sign waving. No, there was none of that.
These men, these architects and students, they talked, and planned, and after years of work, and training, late nights of strong coffee and papers scattered all over their kitchen tables as they studied, they all got up early one Tuesday morning, and went to the airport. All nineteen of them. They were dressed cleanly, professionally. They were polite to airport staff, security, flight attendants. They traveled light, and they all carried box cutters in their carry-on bags.
American Airlines flight 11, United Airlines flight 175, American Airlines flight 77, United Airlines flight 93. All four planes, each of them carrying a small handful of these nineteen men, took off without incident. People relaxed, started to read, maybe have a drink to settle their nerves about being so high in the air. And then these nineteen men acted. With all their belief, all their conviction, all their plans, they brought home that war had changed. Everything that was vertical, went horizontal like never before.
And they got away with it. For the most part. The only resistance came on Flight 93. A few people decided they weren't willing to go quietly. They weren't there to be moved at the whim of a man, or four men, with razor-knives. They decided it was time to "roll". They snuck calls to their families, told them they loved them, and then they acted. Not without incident. That plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, harmlessly, save the lives on board.
Flight 11 and Flight 175 took down the largest monuments to commerce, engineering, and human ability then standing in Manhattan. Flight 77 hit the ground outside the center of this nation's military establishment, driving a concussive fireball, burning wreckage, and the ruin of human flesh through one wall.
Seven years ago, that shining Tuesday morning, everything changed. And for awhile we were united, in our anguish, and our hate - We were equal, and driven, and we showed the world what humans are capable of. Not just destruction, not just hate, but something greater. The lives given that day, running into burning buildings, overpowering fanatics with knives, showed the true depth of what it is to be human, the true greatness we're capable of.
We stood, and we fought, and died, and survived, and endured. We knew who our enemy was, we were clear in our purpose, and our hatred, and we acted on it.
And now, seven years later? Everyone seems to have forgotten. Everything has gotten muddled. Too many lies, too many excuses, too many people who, once again, cannot find in themselves to rise above their own lazy self interest. Because, without a great evil, without a great wound to make them all bleed, to give them the push necessary, it just takes too much work to rise above. And now? Remembering just serves to illuminate that. So, they don't. Most people just don't.
I was just over a month shy of my 16th birthday on the morning of Tuesday, September 11th 2001. I was a boy then, a mature, strong, well educated (I finished high school the following spring) boy, but still a boy. Today? Without arrogance, I feel I've claimed the title of man. The events of September 11th 2001 are a great part of the influences and experiences that helped to shape me in those formative years and put me on the path.
9/11 is, for those who remember, what the Kennedy assassination was for our parents. It's the new "What were you doing when..." question. I think it was a more fundamental event, for everyone, than the assassination of a president - It shook foundations harder, deeper, and changed more. Presidents had been killed before, it was nothing new. It wasn't the pointy end of an innovative thrust in the shape of the world. 9/11 was. If you're paying attention everything is now Before 9/11 or After 9/11.
After 9/11 I became an EMT. After 9/11 I decided the military was in my future - Elite Light Infantry, come hell or high water. There is simply no other option.
I'm stuck in that day - I was angry, I was shocked, I was hurt, and as a teenager 3000 miles away there was nothing I could do. I heard about the deeds of the passengers of Flight 93. I watched fire-fighters and police strive, and die, and survive, and help others, and lose friends, and go back again - I felt proud that these men and women were of my nation, my species. I felt sad I wasn't among them. I was angry that I could not partake in retribution against those responsible.
As these few short years have passed from that awful day, as I have gotten older, my desire, my drive, my belief in the necessity of being a strong hand, a helping hand, in times of need and disaster and chaos has only gotten stronger. It will happen again - The "front line" will again come to our home, our cities and we will need to bring another front line to their homes, their cities, to match the flexibility of the non-nation state warriors of our enemy. There will need to be people ready to meet those challenges head on, with heart, and with strength. I don't know if I have it - All I know is that I have to try. There is no other option.
I am of the 9/11 Generation - Its an indelible part of who I am, what I will become. Its my choice to hold onto it like this, but it's also my responsibility. Because I do remember, and with memory comes responsibility. To all the fallen, the voiceless, faceless, named and unnamed, who died screaming, died trying, died fighting, burned alive, running up the stairs when the towers came down. To all those who survived, and will never get the dust out of their lungs, or the sight and sound of bodies, formerly people, hitting the pavement because the alternative was burning to death, out of their mind. That's why most people don't remember - Memory brings responsibility, and that takes work.
9/11/2001 - Never forget. Never forgive.