You Can't Forget What Isn't Over

Eleven years ago, I was driving to school in rural Tecumseh, Oklahoma. As a senior, I decided it best to play hooky from first hour that day. I was arriving later than normal and happened to be listening to the radio. Shortly before 8:00 a.m. CDT, news interrupted whatever music I was listening to, reporting an explosion at the World Trade Center. Details were scarce, but soon after there were reports of another explosion. It was then that reporters began to mention that planes were flown into the towers.

I entered my English class and the television was already tuned to news coverage of the crashes. It wasn’t long after that the subsequent attack at the Pentagon and the crash at Shanksville, Pennsylvania were reported. I distinctly remember the feeling of lost control. Our country was under attack and whatever false sense of security we felt in our small school was destroyed. It brought back raw memories of the Oklahoma City bombing. We spent all day in that room watching coverage of the terrorist attacks and discussing our feelings.

After school, I went to my job at the local grocery store. I remember the panic of people buying food and supplies - telling of sky-high gas prices and rumors of other attacks. With the benefit of calm hindsight, there was little to fear in a rural town that sits 30 minutes east of Oklahoma City. However, in that moment, we were all of one country and of one people - borders melted and petty differences washed away. As far as everyone knew in Tecumseh, we were all under attack. September 11 was an unreal day, one that forever changed the course of our country.

As we remember that day eleven years ago, we are flooded with tributes that tell us to “never forget”. I always find such statements bizarre, especially so for this event. How can we forget something that hasn’t ended? Sure, the instantaneous events of that day are long gone and our lives have resumed. Make no mistake, the ramifications of September 11 are still felt today - it isn’t over.

Families lost loved ones and the associated pain is never gone - they can’t forget. To this day, we are all forced to remove shoes, endure physical pat-downs, and face unknown radiation effects - liberty lost for security gained. To ordinary citizens, we can’t forget. Our country entered two wars following that day. Soldiers were injured, maimed, and killed. I personally know people who lost members of their family while they defended our country. Those wounds, mental and physical alike, are still fresh - they can’t forget.

Speaking of war, the mission in Afghanistan remains active. Think about that for a minute. The youngest soldiers fighting today in a war spawned by the September 11 attacks were in first grade when those planes stole our innocence. Despite the deaths of the mastermind and dozens of his underlings, we remain. Despite frequent attacks from those our soldiers try to help, we remain. Despite no clear outcome goal, we remain. We have asked brave soldiers and their families to endure over a decade of hell in the name of our safety. Meanwhile, the politicians in charge of their plight waste time bickering about petty nonsense like fucking tax returns or birth certificates. Even more egregious, they either politicize the military’s effort as a means for career gain, or worse, they fail to acknowledge the soldiers who still fight today, even with millions listening. To those who are still defending our freedoms, the reverberations of planes crashing into buildings are still felt today - they can’t forget.

Hopefully as time passes, lessons will be learned from that day, wounds will be healed, and innocence restored. As we reflect on events that transpired eleven years ago, let’s not worry about forgetting. Our entire world is filled with reminders of that day. We can’t help but to remember September 11. We will surely never forget.