Remembering 9/11

On this day 11 years ago the world was changed.

Families were broken, people passed away, others survived, and we all felt the pain of those heartless terrorist attacks. If you lost someone on that day, then I am sorry that you must go through the public pain every year of remembering history’s events.

I’ve toured the FBI building in Washington D.C., and they have a special room dedicated to this day. I was there in June for the second time. Upon entering there is a Star Spangled Banner, an American flag…that was pulled from the wreckage of the twin towers. My heart sinks thinking about walking into that room, knowing it would be there and seeing how dirty, torn, and tattered the flag is. Tears well in my eyes as I write this thinking of the survivors taking that beaten flag and thrusting it high into the air. This flag says that we were knocked down, but Americans always get back up.

The flag that was pulled from the twin tower wreckage on display in the FBI building

Across the room, there are pieces of one of the planes that hit the towers. I touched this twisted steel unemotionally knowing that it played a part in destruction. Across the room there are two murals for the fallen. One of them has the names listed in very small font. Thousands of names. The other has a small thumbnail picture of their face. There are so many faces, and once you lean closer, you can see each and every one of them. They are regular people. Fathers. Mothers. Daughters. Sons. A moustached man with glasses drinking a beer. A black woman with her children. A young, pretty blonde woman. I couldn’t take it, I had to walk away. These were normal people who were slaughtered because of an extreme ideology.

On the other side of the room, there is a letter. It wasn’t a letter from the fallen or a survivor. It was the letter given to the hijackers with their explicit orders on what to do. It explained how if they felt fear, that they should pray and rejoice in their martyrdom. It talked about the ritual in cleaning their knives, shaving their bodies, and oiling their skin. It explained how they should, before impact of their target, open their shirts and give themselves to Allah. Six pages of this. As I read, I broiled.

Later that day, I stood in the Pentagon looking out a window at the exact flight line the plane took to crash into the building. The room I was in is now a memorial room, but 11 years ago today it was completely destroyed. Majors and Colonels and office aides were killed. Some survived on the mere chance that they got up to refill their coffee or use the bathroom. Others sat at their desk and were relatively unhurt. Death was random, sporadic. Earlier in the day I touched a piece of the Pentagon wreckage in the 9/11 room in the FBI building. Then I stood in the building, imagining some of the world’s leaders wiped away in an instant. As I stood, I broiled.

America will forever remember this day, the eleventh of September. But I hope that you remember why it occurred and what it still means ever year. I don’t intend for this to be political, but what we call “Nine Eleven” occurred because there are bad people in the world who actively want to do bad things to western society, especially America.

This hate didn’t begin in 2001, and the hijacked planes were not the first attempt at killing Americans. There was the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1998 African embassy bombings, and the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole that preceded the 11 September 2011 attacks (and many more smaller, uncharted attacks). The toppling of the towers and the crash into the Pentagon were the final straw for the American people. We went to war.

More to the point, the Afghanistan war is not over; the conflict against terrorist organizations is not over. Conventional forces try to secure regions and nation build. Special Operations hunt the bad guys down. ‘Other’ personnel support it all in their own way. Every week a soldier dies. Every week more than one soldier loses a leg from IED detonations. There are fire fights, there are victories, and there are deaths. It’s a forgotten war. Many are quick to clamor that we don’t have any business in Afghanistan, that it’s a lost cause. Yet the Taliban and other terrorist organizations are poised to once again take control if we let them. There’s benefit in having allies in the Middle East, especially when Iraq and Afghanistan are pivots in the midst of a callous region.

We are comfortable in our lives. The economy slowly grows, we have a new election that focuses on class warfare instead of worrying about the national debt or how events across the world could have a bigger impact on our economy. We have that luxury because we are free. Yet too many people forget that there are bad people actively trying to kill us every day. 

And there are bad mother fuckers — Americans, Australians, Brits, Canadians, and more — who are hunting them down.

And there are lesser known individuals, members of other government agencies who protect us too. I’ve seen the recent cases on display of the terrorists the FBI have thwarted. One case includes American citizens who bought into extremist cause to bring death and destruction to other innocent Americans. It happens regularly. Even the Ft. Hood shooter was in contact with Al Queda leaders.

We have a false sense of security because a) we have become complacent in the long years since 2001 and b) there are men and women — military, government, civilian, or otherwise — who successfully protect this and other countries.

Today we shall remember the fallen. However, as we sit nice and cozy at our computers, remember that the war isn’t over. Americans die daily, and yes, it is indirectly to protect you and I. Remember the warriors — whether they wield keyboards or guns — that have and will make it possible for us to only have one memorial from a terrorist attack each year.

Lest we forget…

13 thoughts on “Remembering 9/11

  1. From a FDNY firefighter:  To  all who were lost that day ….and their families ….we will forever be tied together..and will carry your memory ….always.  To those who sacrificed all that day ….and continue to do so day after day….we salute you …and carry your sense of pride and courage in our hearts.  To those overseas ….we have your backs …in the states.  To those responsible ….we will never ever forget.

  2. was disappointed and pretty pissed off today to see the almost complete lack of coverage/mourning/remembrance for 9/11…its like now that we are past the ten year mark the anniversary means nothing anymore. for years now i’ve watched the replay of the news coverage from that morning, and then this year its just regular old bullshit morning show content. @ work we didn’t do anything either (unlike past years)… been listening to springsteen’s the rising album…if anyone is interested ny daily news website has a ton of pics and videos

    • history channel had some amazing footage on last night. lots of camcorders from people in the area, NYU students, commuters, etc.

      very chilling stuff.

      there was a guy who stayed up late to watch monday night football and overslept his alarm the next morning. During the 15 minutes he was late the plane had hit building 1 and so he couldn’t go into tower 2 where he worked. had he been on time he would be dead right now…

  3. 9/11 was a major factor in me dedicating my life to one of service. One day again terror will come in one way or another be it by plane, or Mumbai or as LT Grossman predicts, in our schools as they did to the Russians in Beslan upon their exit from the holy land.

    And as is always said, if you aren’t part of the solution you’re part of the problem… and fuck that.

  4. I would agree that there are crazy people who want to kill us and that our military does an incredible job of protecting us. However, the reason that crazy people hate us is not because we are American or free or anything, its because of an American foreign policy which has been meddling around in the middle east since the 1950s. Corrupt politicians who send our sons and daughters off to die without blinking an eye. Crazy people don’t fly planes into buildings in Zurich, even though Switzerland is much freer and much more prosperous than we are (median income of 90k vs 39k here and a cap on income tax of nore more than 11.5 percent). The fallout from this is very tragic. My heart weeps for the victims of a senseless act and to all the servicemen and women hunting down those responsible and to all the innocent men, women and children civilians throughout the middle east who have been killed in the crossfire.

  5. johndwyer,
    While attacks on Switzerland are rare, I agree, other European countries have suffered attacks. And I agree that foreign policy has definitely caused some animosity, however it is not the only reason, and to believe it is is an oversimplification. There are definite cultural issues at play as well. The Middle East does not own the monopoly on the receipt of American or Western foreign policy, yet of all the recipients, the majority of violent attacks come from one demographic. But I agree that changes can and should be made.

    Now that that is out of the way, very nice write up Justin. I always enjoy your memorial and patriotic posts.

    Let us not forget that in the last two days America suffered three more attacks as three US Embassies in Egypt, Libya and Yemen have been stormed.