On Saturday’s 9/11 anniversary, take some time to remember

As hard to believe as it may be, nearly one-fifth of the country is too young to remember firsthand the day that changed everything.

A story from Associated Press writer Ted Anthony released this week reflects how the memory of 9/11 has evolved for many Americans over the past 20 years.

“Now we have a generation of people who weren’t even alive on 9/11,” Paul Murdoch, the lead architect on the Flight 93 National Memorial, says. “So how do you talk to people of this new generation — or of future generations?”

On the 15th anniversary of the attacks, President Barack Obama said, “Fifteen years may seem like a long time. But for the families who lost a piece of their heart that day, I imagine it can seem like just yesterday.”

That fundamental tension — it feels like yesterday, yes, but it is also becoming part of history for the long haul — is what confronts us in the coming days as many revisit and consider 9/11 and commit their own acts of remembering, Anthony wrote.

“Sober ceremonies should not mislead us into thinking the public remembrance of this horrific event is a settled matter,” 9/11 historian John Bodnar wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece in May.

At a hinge point like a major anniversary, particularly with something as seismic as 9/11, it’s easy to fall back on an aphorism like this one from William Faulkner: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” But the saying has endured for a reason, Anthony says.

For those of us who were old enough to remember that day, I’m sure it’s hard to believe that on Saturday, 20 years will have passed. The majority of us remember exactly where we were and what we were doing on the day the world changed. Though time has passed, we can still remember how the events of that day made our hearts break. It’s a place that we never want to go back to — but, on Saturday’s anniversary — perhaps we should, if even for a few moments.

To parents who have children who were too young to remember 9/11 — try to spend some time talking with them this weekend about the day that our freedoms were threatened, albeit unsuccessfully. Tell them about where you were and how you found out. Tell them about how the entire world felt frozen in the days that followed.

Tell them that you will never forget about that day, and that they shouldn’t either. And when you’re done, count your blessings and hold them a little closer.

J. William Thompson selected a very poignant photo for the cover of his 2017 book, “From Memory to Memorial: Shanksville, America and Flight 93.” The image shows a man looking at the Shanksville crash site, his right arm raised. In his left he holds a hand-painted sign etched with four words: “I did not forget.” Nor should we.


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