Opinion: Rembering the Tragedy on 9/11

On September 11, seventeen years ago, four planes were hijacked by members of al-Qaeda and crashed intentionally into two buildings in Manhattan, another building in Washington D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania.  By sundown, almost 3,000 Americans were dead, the twin towers were permanently removed from the New York City skyline, and the world was changed forever.  This year, flags were put out on the University of Illinois Springfield Colonnade to remember these events of almost two decades ago.

   Many students were too young to remember 9/11, and the students of the next few years will be the first to have been born after these attacks.  When the phrase “never forget” is seen or heard, most people think to 9/11, but as time marches on it becomes more and more difficult and more and more important that we truly do not forget what happened that day.

   Almost everyone knows the facts.  On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, a series of airplane hijackings and suicide runs into civilian targets took place, claiming the lives of 2,977 innocent civilians. These facts are impossible to forget and are publicly shown every year.  That’s not all the phrase “never forget” is about. 

   It’s about all the acts of bravery and humanity that occurred that day. It’s about Rick Rescorla, a security officer and Vietnam veteran who denied his wife’s pleas to come home and instead went to evacuate the towers, never to be seen again. It’s about a guide dog named Roselle, who calmly led her owner and dozens of others out of the north tower while debris fell all around her.  It’s about the citizens of the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, who took in 7,000 stranded people in their private homes when flights were grounded in the aftermath of the attacks.  It’s the story of the subway operators who kept running trains under the crash sites until the station was completely empty, saving every person who was stranded there.  It’s about the 343 firefighters, 72 police officers and 55 military personnel, many off duty, who volunteered and selflessly gave their lives so others could survive.

   The lessons of 9/11 that we must never forget are not those of fear and hate, or even nationalism or patriotism.  We must never forget the love and compassion that humans have for one another.  For every act of hate, there are exponentially more of love.  On that fateful day, when it felt like the world was falling apart, the best of humanity was on display in force. 

   In the face of devastation, thousands of men and women put self-interest to the side and sacrificed everything for their fellow humans.  That is what must never be forgotten, that no matter how bad things become, there are always people who will help.  Every year when 9/11 comes and goes, don’t just remember the hate. Remember the love that was shown that day as well.