Sept. 11, 2001, the day the world changed. Most of us know the details of what happened on that morning as 19 members of al-Qaeda unleashed the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil in American history leaving close to 3,000 dead.
The result was an instantaneous public outcry and widespread feelings of patriotism that had not been seen in this country since the second World War. The American flag became a ubiquitous symbol of the liveliness of the American spirit despite the significant damage that was done. “United we Stand” became such a popular phrase that it was almost impossible to go anywhere without seeing it. Sympathy and admiration for emergency service personnel was unprecedented, as many paid tribute to the fire fighters, police officers and EMS workers who had so valiantly sacrificed themselves for the sake of others that day. The profound resolve to “Never Forget” united our citizens from coast to coast.
However, Sept. 11, 2007 became the day that the College forgot.
The general apathy I encountered as I walked around campus was truly disappointing. When I found out that the College was no longer going to have a memorial service and I vocalized my disenchantment to my fellow students, many had not even made the connection between the date and the events that had occurred six years prior. By failing to create awareness and provide services, the College ultimately failed its students and sent the wrong message. To quote a message that someone posted on the Facebook group that I created in response to my disappointment, “By doing nothing on 9/11, the campus sent the message that the attacks meant nothing.”
I understand that the nation cannot mourn forever. Nevertheless, it is possible to move on without forgetting. It is undeniably important to remember and acknowledge the suffering that occurred on that day and the great losses that our nation experienced. But the purpose of recognizing 9/11 goes beyond this.
What should also be remembered is how our nation came together in spite of the hatred. What should be recalled is how we celebrated the first responders who every day put their lives on the line for our safety.
I have always believed that it is important for people to reflect on such events in their own private way. But I also believe that by neglecting to provide the awareness that assists in promoting this retrospective thought process, the College failed to encourage us to ask the right questions. Ultimately, how is it that we choose to remember the events that occurred on that day? How do we honor the sacrifices that so many made, and how do we make ourselves worthy of these sacrifices? And most importantly, how do we move on without forgetting?