“No day shall erase you from the memory of time.” – Virgil
On September 11th, 2001, 2,996 people lost their lives.
Today, 16 years later, there are hundreds of thousands of family members who continue on with their lives though time was suspended for them that harrowing day. On that day, over 6,000 others were wounded also.
There were 265 airline passengers killed on the four commercial planes, the total includes the 19 terrorists who took flight that day with no intentions of returning. There were another 2,606 killed in the World Trade Center and surrounding areas. And finally, 125 more lives were taken at the Pentagon. This was the most devastating foreign attack on American soil since the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. Of the almost 3,000 lives that were lost that day, 2,605 were civilians; people going about their everyday lives, some going to work, some flying on vacations, some just sitting in their offices working to provide for their families.
There were also 343 firefighters, 72 law enforcement officers and 55 military personnel who died that day. These heroic men and women ran towards danger that day, instead of away.
So here we are today, 16 years later, which if I’m honest seems weird. Some days the attacks seem like they just happened and other days it seems longer ago than 16 years. I was one of the “lucky ones” uninjured in the attacks, without losing a friend or family member. But I know many that did. For them the attacks are as fresh and raw as if they are just turning on their televisions, answering those calls, or opening those front doors. The days have gone on, yet for so many, time has stood still. They live their lives similar to our system of “BC” and “AD,” “before Christ” and “after death.” For them, their days and months and years are ordered as “before 9/11” and “after 9/11.” Their lives have never been the same. And yet, we go on.
The ancient Roman poet, Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil, wrote the words, “Nulla dies umquam memori vos eximet aevo.” These words have been translated to say, “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.” He wrote this epic when Aeneas fled Troy as it was burning to the ground. With him he carried the remnants of his family were boarded his ship to Italy to lay the foundation of Rome. Some have argued these words should not be used to commemorate the lives of the civilians who were lost on 9/11, but the truth behind their power remains.
16 years have passed. 5844 days have passed. Almost 835 weeks have passed. These lives mean no less today than they meant on September 11th, 2001. In fact, they probably mean more. These were lives cut short. Fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandchildren, spouses, lovers, friends and coworkers. These were heroes who put on their uniforms every day and promised to protect others. These were men, women, boys and girls who that day knew nothing of their fate. None of the past 5844 days have replaced their lives. None of the past 834 weeks and 6 days have removed their memories from their loved ones.
Where the “Twin Towers” once stood in Lower Manhattan, today the 9/11 Memorial resides. It’s a place of solemn reverence, yet a symbol of strength. These lives are not forgotten, nor will they ever be.
As parents we are tasked with protecting our children. This means everything from teaching them to look both ways before crossing the street, always wearing a seat belt and “stranger danger” to teaching them that in spite of all the good in the world, evil is still present. We are given the responsibilities as mothers and fathers to teach our children that as good as we want them to be to others, not everyone will be the same in return. We are also given the choice of what we will teach them of the past. Today there are debates on removing monuments to a painful time in our nation’s history. This blog today is not about that conversation, though it likely will be in the future.
But the reality that faces us as parents is what will we teach our children about September 11th, 2001?
My son is almost 21 months old and he is obsessed with all things “firefighter” related. He is too young today to understand, or grasp, the reality of what happened 16 years ago. But rest assured, as he grows older I will tell him the stories of the 343 firefighters who gave their lives in sacrifice of others on 9/11. I will teach my son that in the face of terrifying circumstances men like Todd Beamer said “Let’s Roll” to fellow passengers on United Airlines Flight 93. Todd Beamer made the heroic call to the Verizon support center to notify authorities of what was transpiring on their plane. Three terrorists had taken over their flight and he was going to do everything in his power to get that plane safely to the ground. Todd Beamer lost his life that day. I will teach my son that in the face of adversity Todd Beamer did what he could, until his final breath, to try to protect those strangers on his flight and gave his all trying to get home to his family. I’ll teach my son about Lisa Jefferson who was the Verizon agent on the other end of Todd Beamer’s call. She stayed calm as she talked to Todd, and she prayed the Lord’s Prayer with him. She stayed on the phone with him until the very end.
I want my son to know what sacrifices were made that day. And I want my son to know of the sacrifices that have been made since that day. I want him to know of the brave men and women who have fought in the war against terrorism, people like my friends Ben and Jeremy Wise who both gave their lives in pursuit of a better, safer America.
I want my son to know of our leaders who faced unthinkable adversity and still stood strong. I want my son to know about George W. Bush and what he has meant to my life, and the lives of hundreds who were blessed to work with him, and for him. I want my son to know that in the face of such uncertainty, he spoke these words, “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts have shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”I’ll teach my son that no matter what forces you come up against, America is the land of the free and the home of the brave because of the men and women who have given their lives in her defense.
And finally, I’ll teach my son that evil never wins. In the end the Goodness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will triumph every grave.
And for today, I’ll teach my son to remember the lives of those 2,996 men and women, boys and girls, whose lives were taken from them. And I’ll teach my son to always “Be Strong, Protect the Weak, Love Everyone.”