When I visited Ground Zero, what people who were old enough to remember 9/11 call the site of the World Trade Center, it had been two years since the attack. The massive holes that, two years earlier, had been a pair of 110 story office buildings, were full of construction equipment busily readying the site for development. A non-descript orange netting circled the rim to prevent onlookers from toppling in. It looked to be any other construction area in a major city.
A Burger King across the street betrayed the nature of the activity around me. It remained boarded up but you could still see the hand made signs inside, calling for help, identifying an aid station, everything still covered with that sickening gray dust. There I could touch 9/11 as the damage to the building façade reached ground level and was not obstructed by fences or boards. Higher, and all around the massive hole were the other buildings in the World Trade Center complex. Massive structures in their own right, these buildings would share in the fate of their namesake, eventually being razed to the ground. In 2003 they remained standing as a grisly testament to the carnage of two years prior. Each quietly boasted massive gashes, burned and torn, inflicted as the steel and concrete from the towers fell. The wounds looked like the result of the Avengers fighting aliens or Godzilla running amok, but they had not been created by computers in California. Draped over these holes were massive American flags and banners that proclaimed “We will never forget” I knew then it wasn’t true.
Ofcourse we would continue to have ceremonies and speeches, moments of silence and flags at half mast (mostly, no order has been given from Washington to lower the flags at our Federal building), but the lessons learned would be forgotten, the pain and agony, the fear and vulnerability, it would fade as the excitement from so many blockbuster movies. It took longer, to be sure, but fade it did.
By 2008, a mere seven years later, people had grown bored with vigilance and conflict. Freedom is hard and we wanted fresh and cool. So a previously respected war hero and political independent was defeated by an airy liberal devoid of substance. Four years later he was reelected. Leading the world is hard. We wanted no part in the scary place which had caused us nothing but trouble. And so, the world burned as the United States rejoiced in its isolation, playing the fiddle to drown the screams of hundreds of thousands perishing in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Ukraine, Russia, North Korea, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Turkey, Algeria, Cuba and Mexico. Its not our problem, besides, messing with other countries only ends up hurting us.
Now we are giving Iran a nuclear bomb.
Of course it isn’t framed that way. There is great talk of “Peace” and “Diplomacy” and a “New beginning” with the alternative being instant and terrible war. No one wants that. Look at Iraq. That was no good and so we shall practice war no more.
However history teaches, as it is always eager to do, that the world is a dangerous place, filled with dangerous people who desire power and wealth. These are not outdated philosophies relegated to the “dustbin of history” they are part of human nature, inside each one of us. Its something we must struggle to overcome, not something that has faded with time. Iran is our enemy. Iran cheats and steals and does its best to kill anyone who disagrees with them. This we know to be true and yet, to them we grant the power to construct the most devastating weapon ever devised by “evolved” men. We didn’t want to, but the only other option was “war” and we don’t feel like war right now. War is hard.
Today we remember September 11th, 2001 and forget everything we learned. America has a place in this world and its not to wag its finger in the face or tyrants or lament global warming. Thousands of Americans die when we forget that place; at the World Trade Center, at Pearl Harbor, in Korea, and World War I. How many will die before we are forced to remember again?
Think before you attach #NeverForgetThink about what it means to remember and act as we will be called to act again very soon.