We Say “Never Forget”, But We Are Already Forgetting

On this 16th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, more and more of us don’t directly remember the event.

It’s one thing to read about or be taught something. I’ve read dozens of books about WW2. Can’t hold a candle to anyone who lived through it. It’s like the difference between going on the trip versus getting a postcard from someone who did.

We who lived through “9/11” say “never forget”. Easier said than done.

For example, remember that on the evening of Sept. 11, 2001, we still thought 10-20,000 people had died in the towers? Reason: that’s how many people could’ve and would’ve been at the World Trade Centers on a weekday morning. The official death toll of under 3,000 was not reached for weeks, nor was such a number believable on that night. Too low.

Pundits and prognosticators also misread the American people, and not for the last time, either. The commentator lectures started immediately: don’t profile, don’t act out against Muslim-Americans, etc., etc. While there were isolated incidents, I’ve always thought our nation and its people showed remarkable restraint.

Say what you will about Afghanistan and Iraq, but here at home, we never lived down to their low expectations. Instead, we were very much the people the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville found us to be 170 years earlier:


“America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.
“The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”
Finally, while we all still remember the immediate grounding of commercial air traffic on 9/11, an overlooked story is what happened to inbound international flights that day. Those over the Atlantic were redirected to Canada, and about three dozen of them wound up in tiny Newfoundland, at Gander Airport. The Canadians, it should be noted, took these planes despite well-founded fears that more of them might be under terrorist control.
Then what? ¬†Author Jim DeFede chronicles it in his book “The Day The World Came to Town”. The people of the town, without anyone telling them to, jumped into action and became a family to the stranded, tired, scared passengers.
They did for international strangers what America’s done for so many throughout our history.
Somewhere, de Tocqueville smiled.




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