9/11: Not openly remembering doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten

I’d wager a tidy sum that there isn’t a single American, old enough to recall, who doesn’t remember vividly the moment they learned of the tragic events that unfolded on September 11, 2001.  Those of us who do can easily recall where we were when we heard the news and how stunned we were to learn that, for the first time since Pearl Harbor in WWII, American soil had been so ruthlessly desecrated by foreign invaders.  It was historic.  It was terrible.  It was terrifying.  And, it was so utterly real.

I remember. It was 9 a.m.  I was in Orlando.  I’d just walked into the recording studio where I worked as an engineer. I was hungry, as I’d skipped breakfast. I was harried, because traffic held me up.  I found my boss holed up in his office — unlike his customary how–do–ya–do in the lobby every morning with donuts and bagels. His eyes were glued to the TV, and he didn’t seem to hear a word I said when I walked in to say “good morning.”  When he turned to me with glassy and terror–stricken eyes to say, “America is under attack,” I am relatively certain that I lost my ability to breathe as I peered over his shoulder and observed the smoldering tower dominating the 52–inch TV screen mounted on his office wall. It was a moment frozen in time that I will never forget.

September 11, 2011 marked the 10–year anniversary of one of America’s most historic and tragic events.  To be expected, ground–zero in lower Manhattan led the nation in memorial services from coast–to–coast. Many of our nation’s leaders publically addressed the senseless losses and our nation’s resolve to endure. Many Americans not attending services took a moment of reverence to remember the nearly 3,000 lives lost in the 9/11 disaster.  You know what, though? A lot of Americans didn’t take a moment on that particular day to remember.  And, that’s OK.  Let me tell you why.

Not long ago, I was within earshot of a conversation in which someone remarked that anyone not found honoring the day in some significant manner simply isn’t a good American.  I beg to differ. What exactly is it that constitutes a “good” American anyway? Is it really so easy to define? Does posting Old Glory in my front yard on national holidays make me a good citizen?  Is it consuming lots of beer and food and filling the sky with fireworks on Independence Day that renders me worthy to call myself American? I think not.

The fact is, some Americans honored the 10–year anniversary of 9/11 only in a private moment while obviously working hard at their jobs or tending to the needs of their children and families.  Some were ill at home or in hospitals fending off their own personal tragedies or simply trying to get well so that they can regain their balance and rejoin their fellow Americans on their feet.  And some — yes, some — didn’t even remember at all to pay their respects and simply honored the day by living their lives just as Americans always do and followed their chosen paths without permitting terror-ism to reduce their own level of American resolve.  I submit that this is indeed another way — perhaps even the very best of ways — to honor the people and principles for which so many of our national heroes have suffered and died:  to simply carry on, unfettered by memories of horrow, for those who no longer can.

One need not necessarily commit to overtly addressing every tragedy that has befallen our country in order to be a good American.  Our nation’s brief and fabled history is riddled with so many tragedies and immeasurable losses in the horrors of war and conflict:  The American Revolution, The Civil War, The Great War, WWII, Korea and Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, and other conflicts and horrors nearly too numerous to list, each one commanding a level of reverence and thoughtfulness in American hearts and minds.  And — this is America.  We are Americans.   We all remember.  And, no one — but no one — is ever forgotten.

Last week, President Barack Obama addressed a joint session of Congress about the national unemployment tragedy currently affecting untold hardships in millions of American households.  Are you a “bad” American if you chose not to watch this historical event unfold from your Barcalounger on your high-definition, color-corrected flat-screen TV?  No, you’re not.  And, neither are the many Americans who might not visibly pay their respects to the fallen of 9/11.  Don’t judge them.  Give them a little credit.  They are, after all, Americans.  And as such, there’s a better than average chance that, at some point, and in their own ways, they do honor all of our national heroes.

We are Americans.  Americans never forget.

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