Thursday, September 11, 2008

I Won't Forget

I remember well waking up on that sunny September morning seven years ago. I don't remember why, but I woke up earlier than usual. I was a resident assistant at Helaman Halls--and loved everything about it. I especially enjoyed unlimited access to the Cannon Center cafeteria. That's where I was, standing in line to get breakfast, when someone told me that "The Pentagon has been attacked". They didn't mention New York, but they didn't have to. I knew that we were in for some big news that day, and for war. "Which country has the guts, or is stupid enough, to attack us?" I thought to myself--"at our Pentagon!"

I left the cafeteria and walked into the lobby to where the big-screen TV was located, only to find a picture of two burning towers---The World Trade Center towers. I tried to understand why two burning buildings were on the news instead of the Pentagon. Little did I understand the significance of the Twin Towers, what had actually taken place, or how many people actually worked there.

In that moment, it was something distant to me. Utah was a long way from New York City. And the camera angle on TV was distant as well, so I didn't initially picture the hell on the ground or inside the towers. I hadn't yet been there in person. I had no idea of what life was like at Ground Zero. And then all of a sudden I watched the first tower completely collapse.

As each new report came in, and with each passing minute, I began to feel the unbelievable shock of what had happened, of what was presently unfolding, and what it was going to mean for our country. Initially I only understood the significance of the Pentagon, and that attacking our military headquarters was a very serious thing. But with all the confusion swirling around that day, one thing became clear; this was much more than an attack on physical buildings, it was an unimaginable attack on ordinary Americans simply because they were Americans.

The rest of that day is a blur. I remember walking to class, wondering why I was even going to class--"life can't possibly go on as normal today, could it?" Plans were indeed changed, and BYU held a special prayer service in lieu of its planned Tuesday morning devotional at the Marriott Center. I've saved the special edition newspapers that came out that day, and the day after. I've laminated them and now I hang them up in my classroom every year on September 11th. They are a dramatic reminder of the horrific images and the magnitude of that day. And I'm determined never to forget. I won't forget what happened that day or the days following. I won't forget what a great land we live in. I won't forget the sacrifices of those who have gone before to make America great. And I'll try to do all that I can so that my students won't forget either.


Clean Cut said...

It was brought to my attention on another blog that it might sound like I'm advocating hatred towards the perpetrators or being unforgiving when I say I will not forget. I'm grateful to be able to make a clarification.

There's a famous quote that "those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it". I'm not advocating hatred or being unforgiving. But I don't think it's a good idea to forget our history or forget the things (good and bad) that have made us who we are, 9/11 included.

I tell my students that people who do not know their history are like someone with amnesia. They don't know who they are, what's happened to them, or where they've come from. And if that's the case, it's hard to know where you're going.

As historian/writer David McCullough has said: "History teaches and reinforces what we believe in, what we stand for, and what we ought to be willing to stand up for." And we can learn a lot of great lessons from September 11th, 2001. Just like remembering the hard times our nation lived through during Valley Forge and the American Revolution--we appreciate their sacrifices and gain strength and renew our commitment to our American ideals.

Sally said...

That was a horrible day, wasn't it? I remember watching from my classroom--stunned--when those towers fell. I couldn't wait to get home and just hug Brad, thankful that we had each other, when so many others had lost their dear ones that day.