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Passing the Torch – Remembering 9/11

By Jeffry Boatright

While Irma commanded everyone’s attention over the weekend with the threat of her projected path battering North Florida on and around Sept. 11, the ominous date itself lingered in the minds of many. It is a date we cannot forget. Although it is a date that we’ll never celebrate, Sept. 11 is a date that we must always remember.

Much like the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Americans were overwhelmed with a range of emotions. We were shocked, scared, sad and angry.

Pastor Darrell Curls of Mary Belle Baptist Church clearly recalls the day we were attacked. Curls, who had served during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm, stated that he felt angry and violated. It was difficult for Curls to accept such an unprovoked attack on American soil, especially after he, along with other American servicemen and servicewomen, had protected the freedoms of others in foreign countries.

For Curls and the rest of the nation, it was difficult to see, but we couldn’t stop watching the live coverage of the burning tower of the World Trade Center after the first hijacked plane crashed into it. It even became more difficult and frightful when we watched the second plane crash into the other tower. Helplessly, we watched as victims plunged to their demise from the burning towers. When news came that the Pentagon was hit by a third plane, we had no idea how orchestrated and extensive the attacks might be. Our hearts sank even deeper as anger and fear intensified when we learned of the hijacked plane that went down in Pennsylvania.

The memories of Sept. 11, 2001, are vivid for most. Almost anyone over 22 years of age today can effortlessly recall where they were and what they were doing when they learned that terrorists with box cutters  had hijacked not one, but four commercial airliners and used them as weapons against America. Each year, however, fewer people recall. After all, it has been 16 years since those horrific attacks were carried out on our nation that gloomy day. As unforgettable as those sickening events might be, and as recent as the day that America was attacked might seem, a new generation of voters who have no personal recollection of that day recently cast their ballots in last year’s general election.

We cannot expect a generation that was not yet born, or too young at the time to remember, to have a personal recollection of what transpired on Sept. 11, 2001. However, we must effectively and adequately pass the torch of remembrance so the victims and heroes, not the terrorists, will always be remembered and honored. We simply cannot forget that our country, our freedoms, and our citizens were attacked that day on our American soil.

While it is indeed understandable that the estimated 27 percent of Americans are too young to remember the events of September 11, 2017, it is unfathomable to consider how quickly our nation’s unity that followed those cowardly, repulsive attacks dissolved. Those of us old enough to recall remember how united we were.

We recall total strangers buying our coffee simply because we were Americans. American citizens no longer saw one another as black or white, democrat or republican, northerner or southerner. We were simply Americans and we were proud of our flag. Our flag waved proudly from homes and businesses.

We went to church and called our relatives. We told them we loved them. Together, we cried. We grew strong and there was a resurgence of pride in our nation. Strangers who had lived next door to one another for years became neighbors. We vowed that we would not be defeated. We vowed that we would not forget. We vowed that we would remain united. There were even images of professional football teams carrying the American Flag onto the football field with pride. We revered our military personnel and first responders. We honored our elders. If only for a short while, we looked to God. We vowed that we would overcome and the American way of life would be sustained.

Life, however, would never return to the way it had been for the families, friends and coworkers of nearly 3,000 victims who lost their lives that day. Furthermore, life could never again be the same for the countless others who were physically and emotionally harmed that day.

Of course, business did resume. As a whole, we were vigilant for a while. The first thing to go, however, was our unity. Politics, as usual, again became prevalent and the blame game began. Gridlock returned to Washington and somehow the question of what we might have done to provoke the terrorists even arose. The answer to that question was clear all along, and remains clear. We offer freedom in America.

Sept. 11 is not, nor should it ever be a day to celebrate. It is, however, a day that we must remember and never forget. It should serve as a reminder that as one generation passes the torch to the next, that torch must represent life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.