Today is the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. While it may not look much different from, say, the 2018 version of this date, something about round numbers and the passage of time strikes a chord at the collective heart of a people. The internet and airwaves are full of tributes this week. Without exception, they all hearken back to that crisp, Fall day in 2001 on which America’s trajectory would be forever altered.
I know full well what happened that morning. After all, I witnessed it as a twelve year-old from the orthodontist’s office — crowded around a small TV with my mom and dental professionals as we watched large planes smash into enormous buildings. I remember the American flags. I remember the President throwing the first pitch of the World Series while wearing an FDNY jacket. And I remember the Global War on Terror in which I took part.
The 20th anniversary feels different than the 19th because we deem it important to pause and remember. There is nothing inherently more special about today than previous anniversaries, but it feels important. Honoring the fallen, reflecting on the forces that shape our society, and allowing ourselves to feel the weight of that epoch matters to a people. It means we have not forgotten, lest we ever become desensitized to the way that Fall felt. It upended our world and shaped society for a generation.
That is worth reflecting upon from time to time, deeply, as a country.
Much could be written on the cascading effects of that moment. People around the world would feel those attacks ricocheting through their own lives, no matter how unconnected they presumed themselves to be. However, sometimes it is more important to internalize the tragedy of that day.
3,000 people died — whether incinerated aboard planes, jumping from towers, or sitting at their desks. The heartache from those affected and those watching is vast, complete. That loss is worth memorializing, as are the decisions and their consequences that followed.