So much has happened to me personally and professionally since that day and the day in September 2001 that ultimately set up this strong memory. I find myself on a most unexpected but not unwelcome path altered by the events of 9/11.
Much of those early months in The Pentagon were focused on the aftermath of the attacks and supporting the operations in Afghanistan. Lessons on Army staff procedures, Congressional affairs and foreign policy were learned hourly. Working on the Army’s crisis action team as the public affairs representative required immediate fluency in all these things and I had none of them. Fortunately, as did the rest of the Nation, the crisis action team pulled together coaching one another, making things happen sometimes by a relentless force of will. We took care of each other. After all, we were all in the same boat.
Now a decade later, the National Geographic Channel is running various documentaries about the events of 9/11 and the days and weeks following. On one documentary in particular, I saw images of three people I knew and worked with, fellow members of the Army Public Affairs team who were outside The Pentagon that day helping rescue the injured and trying to bring at least a little bit of order to the chaos of the day. I’ll bet you they’ll never forget that day. I’ll even go so far as to bet you that the memories of the carnage of that day are with them every day.
Is it with the rest of us?
Do we remember how we felt that day? Are the events of 9/11 fading from our memory like old wallpaper in an abandoned structure? Does 9/11 only live in the minds of my colleagues and those like them, but not in the rest of us? Have the Katrinas and the debt ceiling and the tsunamis and the earthquakes and the divisiveness all overtaken our memories?
Yeah. Pretty much, I think.
In watching the documentaries, it brings up my feelings of that day, even though I was in my home in Los Angeles and nowhere near The Pentagon. I find myself wondering if anyone else is moved to tears again as I was watching and reliving the events of that day.
Maybe I’m just getting old, but it still makes me chuckle to think that the two children with whom I live weren’t yet born when this happened. To them, 9/11 WILL be just a documentary, a collection of facts to be learned just long enough to pass the test.
When they’re old enough and if I’m not around, I hope someone takes the time to show them not just the collection of facts, but also the collection of faces — the faces of the innocent people who were murdered on American soil. And the faces of evil that perpetrated the atrocities of that day.
Even with that knowledge, it’ll never be as real to those two boys as it was to we who were glued to our TV’s that day watching the horrors unfold from afar. And for certain, it will never be as real to those two boys as it was to my Army colleagues and the hundreds of others like them who experienced it first hand on the Pentagon grounds that day.
Darryl Worley, a talented country music artist who I had the great pleasure to meet and brief, asked the real question back in 2003: Have you Forgotten?
It frightens me to believe that for most of our Nation, the answer is “yes.”
“Complacency” ought to be a four-letter word