18 years ago this date became etched in something stronger than stone. In blood and horror, in loss and destruction, in fear and retaliation. But something brighter too. I would venture to say there is a tenacious streak, a solve it any way possible bit, that place where survival for all takes over and lending hands come from every direction while individual needs take a back seat. It pulls together unlikely alliances during the worst of times to change the tragic trajectory. This is what we understand to be wholly American. From our small towns to urban neighborhoods you can feel the ripple reshaping torn communities into something unified, something that makes us proud.
Standing in front of all of my classes today, from 9th to 12th graders, for the first time, there wasn’t a one of them born after September 11, 2001. The various attacks on that day are only stories they’ve heard from teachers like me. A few might have a family member who knew someone who knew someone who was almost there. Or they are related to someone sent into battle afterwards, but even those connections seem like a faraway myth to them. They have however inherited ever-growing travel restrictions, an inherent mistrust of foreigners (translate that to all non-white people), a fundamental acceptance of fear, and the singular knowledge of stress due to the unknown. They would rather send me an email than ask me about anything; their face-to-face retreat is a universal component of gen z and considering their inheritance, I get it.
But I want them to understand something else too. So I talk about resilience and show this video.
I remind them that like a phoenix we will rise up, and that together we did just that even on that dreadful day, and on other’s that came before, or will come after. In flood and fire and death and earthquake and job loss and all else that rocks our small boats, we find safety within those stretching out to lift us up. This is the greatness that we feel on this memorial day. President Obama, “declared September 11 a national day of service and remembrance to honor those killed in the attacks, those who responded 10 years ago and those who have served in our military during in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan” (Curtis). His dedication reminds. Reach down. Lift up. Never Forget.
**Proud that my family, those tugboat folks at McAllister Towing & Transportation, were a vital part of the extraordinary evacuation on 9/11.