Twenty years isn’t a very long time. Not for the children who lost parents in Manhattan and Kandahar and over Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Not for the paramedics and cops and firefighters who will remember it like yesterday for the rest of their lives. And not for our history. Turn the page just a few times in a textbook and two decades whips by pretty quick.
But twenty years is long enough to forget some things.
That’s why “always remember” can’t be a slogan. It’s a work order. It’s a sacred assignment we owe the 2,977 innocent victims who died in the attack and the servicemen and women who deployed overseas in the aftermath. It’s about making good on the obligation we owe the first responders who struggled on September 12th and every day since.
Twenty years is long enough for people to forget the true nature of our national unity in the wake of 9/11.
Too many young people seem to think it was all about revenge. It wasn’t. It was about justice. The brave men and women who enlisted after 9/11 weren’t just settling a score. They wanted to protect their friends and loved ones. They wanted to create a safer, more peaceful world. They chose service in a dangerous time.
It was unity in grief.
It was about finding strength in each other. It was about consoling your neighbor even if you were suffering too. We realized that the ties that bind us- love of family, desire for safety, deep appreciation for sacrifice- were so much stronger than petty political differences designed to divide us. Even in the face of unspeakable terror, we had to move forward.
We had to do it together.
We can’t forget that today. Residents on opposite sides of a hot-button issue at a town board meeting need to remember that they all care about their community enough to show up. People arguing about politics on social media need to remember there’s a real human being behind that other screen. And we all need to remember that so many of our neighbors have scars we don’t see and carry burdens we can’t understand.
Scripture tells us that there’s no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends. If there is, it’s to lay down your life for a stranger. This year, I’m deeply moved by the first responders who didn’t hesitate for a single second to put their lives on the line. They charged headfirst into hell on Earth to protect people they’d never met before and would never see again.
Live a life that would make them proud.