Twenty years ago, the World Trade Center towers in New York City collapsed after two hijacked commercial jets crashed into it. Another hijacked jet crashed into The Pentagon and then a plane crashed in Shanksville, Penn., after the passengers on board reportedly attempted to take over the hijackers. About 3,000 people lost their lives that day.
I was working as a reporter at the Americus Times–Recorder in Americus, Ga., a small rural town in southwestern Georgia. It was about 1,000 miles maybe more or less from all the events taking place. But former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, lived about 15 miles away in Plains, Ga.
I had been working for about two months. And when I started, there were two other reporters, who had since quit to take jobs elsewhere. So, I was the only one working that week. I had gone to bed on Sept. 10, tired and exhausted after having covered a school board meeting. I think I had been working 12-hour days for about three weeks.
I woke up on Sept. 11, 2001 a little later than usual. I was supposed to be in work around 10ish, so it was after 8:30 a.m. when I got up. I was a younger person and it didn’t take me long to shower, shave and shampoo. I turned on the TV and they were reporting on The Today Show that a plane had hit the North tower. I turned the TV channel and ate my cereal and drunk my coffee.
I got in the shower and was getting dressed when something told me to see what was going on. There were no TVs at the paper and I didn’t even have Internet access on my computer at work. By the time I was dressing, the second plane had hit and they were saying there were reports coming in that a plane had hit The Pentagon.
I was glued to the TV set. But I had to go into work. And the publisher had just called me as I was getting around telling me to make it in as soon as possible. One of the women who worked in the front way had brought a TV set over from her home and was using a cheaply made antenna (out of a wire hanger, I think). The reception on the screen was snowy but the volume was working.
Looking back, I think the way I made it through that day was that I was in reporter mode. Or maybe, so much had happened in the 23 years of my life up until that day, it really didn’t phase me.
I was in the first grade when the Challenger exploded. I watched the Persian Gulf War unfold on TV. As George Carlin said, “It was the first war that was on every channel plus cable.”
I had watched the Berlin Wall be torn down and the Soviet Union collapse in a coup d’etat. In middle school, two of the fellow kids had died. My parents separated and later divorced. Then, the World Trade Center was bombed and there was siege at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.
In high school, both of my grandfathers died within a year. There also was a murder a couple of blocks from the high school the result of a domestic dispute.
By the time, the Alfred Murrah Federal Building was bombed in 1995, I was 16. Imagine all that I had witnessed up until that time. A lot of other Gen Xers had witnessed similar things. We were taught during the 1970s and 1980s that America would be destroyed in World War III.
There was a barrrage of movies and TV series/miniseries about it. There was Red Dawn, Testament, The Day After, Amerika, Miracle Mile, the Mad Max movies, Threads and WarGames. Nena sung “99 Luftballons” and people danced to it even though it’s about a nuclear war. The Pointer Sisters had a hit with “Neutron Dance.”
Domestic terrorists and militant groups were growing in America so by the time scumbags Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols felt 169 people in Oklahoma City needed to die and others forever traumatized and injured, I felt sad but I didn’t feel like everyone else.
O.J. Simpson was on trial for killing two people and people were defending his sorry ass. Columbine happened four years later and I was horrified but part of me knew it was bound to happen eventually. Now, Columbine doesn’t even register as one of the most violent spree killings and/or school shootings.
I exercise at an athletic center at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. Some of the young people I see are only 18. Their parents weren’t even together on this day in 2001. It’s quite possible the events brought their parents together.
But going back to 20 years ago, the publisher told me to try to localize it. It wasn’t hard when the Carters. I called the Plains Police Department and talked to the chief who gave me a secret number to the Secret Service. I called them and normally, I expected an ass-chewing of “How the hell did you get this number?!” But I’ll never forget the tone in Agent’s voice. He was scared.
No matter how many times you prepare for a situation, I’m sure when it happens, you still feel a little scared, frightened, uneasy, nervous, etc. I know he was being a professional and Secret Service agents are expecting to run toward problems. But we’re all only human.
He couldn’t say much except to say they were following proper emergency procedures. If something was going to happen, it would’ve already happened. The element of surprise was over. It was 90 minutes to two hours since the first plane hit. By now, everyone was on full alert.
Since the lunch hour was coming up, I went around and asked people on the street what they thought. People talked. Usually they didn’t. And some people said awful things that I didn’t even put in the paper. I knew they were angry and they didn’t want this coming back.
In the year since, we did everything wrong. Even my most conservative friends were guessing America would retaliate with covert secret missions by commandos who are highly trained and have been on numerous missions they can’t even count.
But when W. and Cheney started their Global War on Terror, I knew it was a lost cause. Watching what happened in Afghanistan last month, it’s obvious, we had no exit strategy. All the Republicans were trying to do was to get them re-elected in 2002. If they could point the finger at the Democrats and do a lot of “God Bless America” nonsense, foolish voters would elect them. To this day, I can’t listen to that song without cringing.
I still think W. and Cheney have a lot to atone for, no matter how well they can deliver a speech someone else delivered. W. is no Atticus Finch.
I know people are mad that 9/11 isn’t as focused on now as it has been, but you can’t forget what you can’t remember. The events of 9/11 don’t mean the same to someone who wasn’t born or was just a young kid at the time. I don’t even think the kid in middle school or high school could fully grasp what was happening.
I went to the schools where all the officials had hand selected students to share their thoughts of 9/11. Of course, they wanted their best and brightest to deliver their thoughts. Heaven forbid, a student with a full grasp on what has happened might actually speak to the press. A day care had even assembled a painting in memory, but the young kids didn’t fully understand it.
Now, they’re in their mid to late 20s. The two times I really cried over the events was watching a young child comfort her mother and a young boy who lost his father saying how much he loved and missed him. They shouldn’t have to remember. Anyone over 21 on this date in 2001 has a responsibility to make sure it never happens again.
And we failed. School shootings are up. Spree killings are up. The Boston Marathon bombing happened in 2013. People will remember the events of Jan. 6 for years to come. In a tasteless and repulsive move, the Justice for J6 is planned this same month, more or less supporting the domestic terrorists of that day.
in 2004, the State of Oklahoma prosecuted Nichols for the murder of 161 people who died in the OKC bombing. Nichols and McVeigh were convicted only of the murders of the federal employees. Still, the state had spent about $8 million to prosecute Nichols and some here argued it was a pointless trial.
I almost covered that case as I had interviewed at a job in McAlester, where the trial was held. Oklahoma spent $50,000 per victim to prosecute Nichols and some people felt that was a waste of time and money. We had forgotten in the nine years since the OKC bombing.
America is more divided now than we were 20 years ago. People were willing to donate blood and money to help people. But now, no one almost wants to even wear their mask when they go to Wal-Mart to fight the spread of Covid-19. They spit and cough on people. They march through the aisles at Target screaming about their rights. At the same time, abortion laws are doing what we say Middle East countries are doing.
Almost immediately after 9/11, we targeted all brown-skinned people. Racism in America grew to the point that when Barack Obama ran for President in 2008, people went after him on all fronts. And we elected someone like Trump. And now, many states have passed election laws to ensure that if they don’t like the results, they can just change it.
The more we say “Never Forget,” the more we don’t remember. A lot of those who helped in the relief efforts of 9/11 have died from all the elements they were exposed to. Congress has repeatedly refused aid to the point they have to be publicly shamed by workers who are literally dying.
“Never Forget” is a sound bite. It’s just like Reagan’s “City On a Hill” or “Morning in America.” It’s just words with no meanings behind them.
There will come a day in which many of voters and elected officials weren’t alive during 9/11. Maybe we will have learned from the mistakes of that era. Republicans wanted to point the finger at Bill Clinton and the Democrats. I’ll agree the Clinton Administration could’ve done more. But so could have the elder Bush and Reagan. This all started 40 years ago during the Reagan/Bush Administration.
I hope the Millenials and Gens Xers and Zers will do what they can to prevent another 9/11. “Never forget” doesn’t mean anything if you make the same or worst mistakes.
Impeachment is a series on FX about the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Republicans wanted to go after Clinton so much the scandal and impeachment led to 9/11. The division started in the Clinton Administration and he wasn’t always the best President, but considering who preceded and came after him, he was a lot better.
Since 9/11, people witness the shootings in Las Vegas, Nev. and The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. They saw young kids get murdered at the Sandy Hook and the Stoneman Douglas schools while the adults in charge did everything but make effective changes. They called the slaughter of kids, some only 6, a hoax.
They even think the events of 9/11 were a hoax, or an inside job. I immediately don’t listen to people who want to tell me that it was an “inside job.” Funny how none of these conspiracy theories ever came out until after the 9/11 Commission Report three years after the events.
More and more each day, people are watching events happen that make something like 9/11 seems par for the course.
Never Forget is becoming a useless phrase. I just hope younger people give some true meaning to it.
2 thoughts on “Never Forget Has Become Just A Soundbite”
The more we say ‘Never forget’ the more we don’t remember – such a poignant sentence and it applies to so many events. Thanks for sharing your 9/11 thoughts and memories, a very interesting read.