September 11 2012
“It was a gorgeous September morning,” begins one of the reminiscences of September 11, 2001 this morning on Ricochet. “I was washing the dishes and listening to the morning news show on the kitchen radio, the normal routine.”
That’s what so many of us remember: a beautiful day just like today that started out so normally and ended in such horror. It is necessary that we pause today and remember those who died that day, their families, and those who sustained grievous injuries with which they still struggle.
As unspeakably horrible as 9/11 was, it was also a day that gave us many reasons to be proud of our country. We learned of the firemen who ran into the Twin Towers and gave their lives to save others. I think it may have been Peggy Noonan who commented at the time on the love and courage expressed in the last phone messages of so many who died that day.
I can’t find that column, but here is what Noonan wrote last year on the tenth anniversary of that terrible day:
And there were the firemen. They were the heart of it all, the guys who went up the stairs with 50 to 75 pounds of gear and tools on their back. The other people who were there in the towers, they were innocent victims, they went to work that morning and wound up in the middle of a disaster. But the firemen saw the disaster before they went into it, they knew what they were getting into, they made a decision.
And a lot of them were scared, you can see it on their faces on the pictures people took in the stairwells. The firemen would be going up one side of the stairs, and the fleeing workers would be going down on the other, right next to them, and they'd call out, "Good luck, son," and, "Thank you, boys.
They were tough men from Queens and Brooklyn and Staten Island, and they had families, wives and kids, and they went up those stairs. Captain Terry Hatton of Rescue 1 got as high as the 83rd floor. That's the last time he was seen.
Three hundred forty-three firemen gave their lives that day. Three hundred forty-three! It was impossible, like everything else.
But New York will never get over what they did. They live in a lot of hearts. They tell us to get over it, they say to move on, and they mean it well: We can't bring an air of tragedy into the future. But I will never get over it . . .
It is true that the commemorations this year are more muted than in the past. But we must not forget the sacrifices that ordinary people made so that others might live.
Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani reminds us that there is something else we should not forget:
As time has passed and our government has grown very effective at thwarting further strikes, a very natural thing has occurred. People tend to forget. As indelible as that day remains for the people who experienced it firsthand, it is understandable that memory fades and Sept. 11 becomes like Pearl Harbor, a day consigned to our history.
That is a mistake. The fact is, this isn’t over. We don’t have the luxury of forgetting about it.
The forces that planned and executed the attacks on Pearl Harbor were vanquished. After World War II, peace treaties were signed and alliances were forged — durable, productive alliances. The same cannot yet be said for all those who planned and executed the attacks of 9/11.