Caleb Pollema—Staff Writer
Sometimes we forget how fragile life is and how easily it can be taken away from us.
For the 2,977 Americans who died on Sept. 11, 2001, this was their harsh reality.
Hijackers took control of four commercial airliners: One crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, one into the South Tower of the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and one in a field after the passengers on board revolted against the men who overtook the pilot and crew.
These attacks resulted in a catastrophic loss of life, shaking every American to the core because of the undoubted personal, economic and social repercussions.
This past summer, my family and I had the honor and privilege of visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City. This was one of the most humbling experiences in my life thus far.
The museum is a beautiful tribute to the many lives lost that day. Every square inch of the museum seemed to have some symbolic meaning tied to the attacks. You get a lump in your throat and emotion overtakes you when you stand under the exact spots where each plane crashed into each building.
Various pieces of debris along with the famous steel beam cross that was erected at the site of the attacks and various pieces of debris fill the museum, each item with its own story to tell.
My favorite part of the museum was a special exhibit on the post-9/11 effects on sports. The attacks postponed games in the NFL and ultimately led to one of the most iconic ceremonial first pitches of all time by then President George W. Bush at a Yankees and Diamondbacks World Series game.
I could go on for hours about the details of the exhibits, but I will leave it at that.
After I exited the museum, my dad and I went up to the observation deck of the new One World Trade Center which offers a beautiful view of the New York City skyline with hundreds of iconic sites and buildings.
The day’s experiences were overwhelming for me, but they took an even greater toll on my parents. Both ended the day with teary, red eyes as they recollected what that day was like even all the way across the country in my home state of California.
My parents told me and my sister of how they remember that day and the obvious sorrow and anger that it caused in them both. But what struck me was not their recollections of the day itself, but their memory of the days following the attacks.
My parents remember all the American flags throughout our neighborhood, praying with neighbors and lighting candles on our front porch.
I was only two at the time of the attacks, and I often wonder what it would have been like to have been older when they happened. What would it have been like to not only remember that day, but to remember the day after—Sept. 12th—both at the sites of the attacks and across the country?
What would that tremendous sense of comradery and patriotism across our great nation have felt like? I feel as if each political party would do itself a tremendous service if it remembered those days after 9/11 when there was a great sense of unity—regardless of political affiliation—because we were all simply Americans.
As the years go by, fewer and fewer people remember what it was like to live in a pre-9/11 world. People don’t know what it was like to go through airports without all the stringent security measures. People have forgotten what a world without terrorism was like.
I think people have also unfortunately forgotten what it was like to live through 9/12. People have forgotten what it was like to come together over shared values regardless of political ties. People have forgotten that united we stand and divided we fall.
I hope that we will never forget 9/11 and its tremendous effects on us as a nation. But for the sake of the many lives lost that day, let us also regain and relive our memories of the unity of 9/12 for the 2,977 Americans who cannot.