Remembering the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001
A Times Editorial It’s hard to believe, but 9/11 is old enough to vote.
Yes, it’s been 18 years since that day, a day that changed this country forever. Eighteen years is a long time. But it’s not so long that Americans have forgotten the way it felt to watch those twin towers billowing smoke before ultimately collapsing in on themselves and on to the streets of New York City below. It’s not so long that Americans have forgotten the hole in the Pentagon. It’s not so long that Americans have forgotten the scene in that Pennsylvania field where a group of passengers willingly fought to their deaths to ensure the plane they were on would not be used as a weapon of mass destruction.
Last year, I wrote a column about the events of September 11, 2001, offering the idea that we somehow, if it was possible, may have, indeed, forgotten.
“America seems more divided than ever — or at least in the past few decades. Whether it’s along political lines or religious lines or racial lines, America has become quite fractured.”
That’s what I wrote back in 2018. I also lamented that for a while, immediately following the attacks, it seemed all of America was on the same page. American flags popped up on every available pole, it seemed. Patriotism swept across the nation, and suddenly, at least for a while, we were focusing on the “united” part of United States.
Well, another year has passed, and I can’t say much has changed. And while “we” may have collectively forgotten, I haven’t forgotten it at all. At the time, I was working at Southland Greyhound Park (this was before it was Southland Gaming & Racing and ultimately Southland Casino Racing) as Director of Racing. We had run a double- header on Monday, so I was pretty tired and sleeping in Tuesday morning when my wife called and woke me up.
“Are you watching the news?” she asked.
“No, I’m asleep,” I said.
“We’re under attack,” she replied.
I was no longer asleep.
Who was under attack? I immediately wondered. The school? My wife was a teacher at West Junior High at the time. Columbine and Jonesboro Westside were still fairly recent events in 2001.
I don’t remember much of the rest of the conversation, but at her prompting or of my own volition, I turned on the TV. I realized how bad it was when I saw that the television was tuned to HBO.
And the news was on.
If that doesn’t seem odd to you, you should know that HBO doesn’t have a news department. I quickly realized that every TV channel had a news department that day, as I watched events unfold.
A plane had struck one of the Twin Towers. New York was on fire — all of it, from the way my memory replays it. I watched as a second plane hit the other tower. It was now very clear that this was a deliberate act of terror… of war… of hate.
And of course, there was more. The Pentagon, United Flight 93, and all the chaos and uncertainty that followed. All of the planes were grounded. Everyone was freaking out. The Major League Baseball schedule was canceled. We even shut down the dog track. Why? It seems a little silly now, but at the time, we didn’t know what was happening, why it was happening or where it might happen again.
And, yes, we got up, dusted ourselves off and fought back. But America is different now.
Now we wage war and spread hate on Facebook and Twitter.
We’re bogged down in party politics and torn apart by our differences instead of celebrating our commonality.
But maybe it’s not too late?
Maybe we can still recapture that spirit of community that was so strong 18 years ago? And maybe, just maybe, we can do it without some great tragedy befalling our nation. We can do it.
And we can never, ever forget.