Unlike (it seems to me) most people, my memory of my childhood is close to nonexistent. I don’t remember my first baseball game; I don’t remember my first camping trip. I’m not sure why there’s such a black hole, but—save a few specific events—there is nonetheless.
I do remember where I was the morning of September 11, 2001: I was asleep. I was in afternoon kindergarten, which meant I got to sleep in. I suppose I don’t technically remember, then—I just know I was in afternoon kindergarten, and it being a Tuesday in autumn, it’s almost certain I was sleeping.
I have no memory of the rest of the day. I’m not sure I was even aware of it; that seems like the sort of thing I’d remember—but I don’t.
Even those who were not yet born have the opportunity to remember the attacks, despite their concurrent nonexistence. It is imperative that they do—else 9/11 starts to fade in memory, like D-Day and Pearl Harbor Day before it.
I also worry that our days of national unity around events like 9/11 are behind us, if not for good, then for a long, long time. We used to understand, as a nation, that some things transcended partisanship, and that specifics could be argued over later. We put ideology, nitpicking, and petty attacks aside in lieu of supporting our fellow Americans. One look at Twitter today, and it becomes clear that a massive shift has occurred (as if that wasn’t obvious already).
Were there—God forbid—a terror attack of 9/11’s magnitude today, there would be no national unity. American flags would not fly on every home and business. There would be no moments of silence. The president would not experience a jump in approval ratings, nor would he or she give a grand, unifying speech. (I include “she” because I don’t think Trump is the flashpoint here. He’s a symptom of the culture, not the cause.)
Instead, some people would be sad on TV and social media for 10 minutes, then immediately start pointing fingers and casting aspersions on whichever group is convenient to blame. I’m not saying that didn’t happen before—that would be stupid—but never has it been as profitable as it is today. Dozens of worthless thinkpieces would be published, waxing sardonic on the root of the attack. And, of course, Twitter would be full of its usual vitriol, ironically dunking on people who dare to extend a hand of charity across the aisle.
And so we must remember 9/11, not only for the obvious reasons, but for the sense of unity we shared afterward. If we forget that, there’s no guarantee we ever recapture it.
Pray for our military, our civilians, our government, and our discourse. And pray for our enemies, too. At this point, it’s all we can do.