By Ben Gibbs
Do you remember where you were on Sept. 11, 2001? I was in Mrs. Bundy’s third grade class at Wellington Elementary, about twenty minutes north of the University of Dallas. I was too young to watch the events of that tragic day unfold on TV in real time, but what I do remember vividly was my dad, who was also the principal of my elementary school, coming over the intercom at 3 p.m. just before we were dismissed for the day, and telling everyone to go home to their families and have a safe evening. My dad had been my principal for over three years and he had never said anything like that before. I knew something was different about that day. Although I did not fully understand the gravity of the situation in that moment, I understood that Sept. 11, 2001 was a day that I would never forget.
A lot has happened since. In the 13 years that have passed, the initial shock has subsided, but a powerful memory lingers. The question we now face is how do we remember 9/11?
To be honest, I am not sure. There seem to be varied approaches with respect to the remembrance of 9/11. For many it is a day to commemorate those who perished in the attacks or the subsequent military action, sometimes on social media or with close companions, and for others it is a day of quiet reflection and meditation. While memorials and homages abound, there are still concerns such that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant will strike within U.S. borders, or that a “war weariness” will inhibit political leaders from making prudent decisions with respect to potential terrorist threats, or that the current level of intrusion and introspection made by the national government in the name of national security is unlawful. They all demonstrate that 9/11 and the repercussions that followed are still having an impact on our lives today.
So how do we commemorate the tragedy?
I do not know if we have an answer yet. I do not think that it should be a day solely to celebrate patriotism or a triumph over terrorism, which would misrepresent the attacks, the loss of life and the aftermath of 9/11. Furthermore, I believe that any commemoration of the event should contain some reverence and respect for those who lost their lives in the attacks and subsequent defense of American liberty. Memory is a powerful influence on action and understanding, but no two people can have the same memory, and with that realization comes a need for understanding and compassion. However someone chooses to remember and reflect on the catastrophe of 9/11 is their personal business, but I would urge them to recognize that day as one of unity and strength on behalf of our country. Regardless of the level of anyone’s personal connection to 9/11, there should be a recognized balance between reverence and normalcy on this important day.