On 9/11, twenty-one years ago, more Americans were killed on American soil in one day than in any attack since Pearl Harbor in 1941. A series of terrorist airplane highjacking attacks occurred in New York City, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon… and the world changed. As the events of December 7, 1941, led to war, so too did the events of September 11, 2001.
Some of these memories are preserved in the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City, which opened over a decade ago on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
Americans were united against a common external enemy two decades ago. Everyone identified with the citizens of New York, FDNY caps and t-shirts became popular, and people said,
“We’re all New Yorkers.”
For one brief shining moment, we were unified as a community.
Creation of Patriot Day
With the following words, President George W. Bush designated September 11 to be regarded as Patriot Day or America Remembers:
By the President of the United States of America
On this first observance of Patriot Day, we remember and honor those who perished in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. We will not forget the events of that terrible morning nor will we forget how Americans responded in New York City, at the Pentagon, and in the skies over Pennsylvania — with heroism and selflessness; with compassion and courage; and with prayer and hope.
We will always remember our collective obligation to ensure that justice is done, that freedom prevails, and that the principles upon which our Nation was founded endure.
The President inaugurated this observance on September 4, 2002, and repeated it the following year, following a joint resolution approved on December 18, 2001, along with the U.S. Congress, intending that it be firmly planted into the consciousness of the American people, and each year recalled to our memory
“that more than 3,000 innocent people lost their lives when a calm September morning was shattered by terrorists driven by hatred and destruction.”
Recollections of 9/11
As the anniversary of what most people call September 11th or just 9/11, I remember the rather emotional article I published in the wake of it: a journal of my impressions of that week. And the subsequent one I wrote a year later, recounting what we learned in the year after the attacks and, more importantly, what some had not learned.
Should we remember these kinds of events, recalling history to the next generation? The words of Oxford professor C.S. Lewis are particularly relevant:
Most of all, perhaps, we need intimate knowledge of the past. Not that the past has any magic about it, but because we cannot study the future, and yet need something to set against the present, to remind us that the basic assumptions have been quite different in different periods and that much which seems certain to the uneducated is merely temporary fashion.
A man who has lived in many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village; the scholar has lived in many times is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age.
– “Learning in War-Time,” The Weight of Glory
What do you remember about 9/11?
Lest we forget.
Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian
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