How to Honor 9/11 This Weekend
Forget the Perpetrators and Joe Biden. Fly the Flag. Focus on American Exceptionalism. Remember Who We Are.
The 20th anniversary of 9/ll arrives Saturday. And a generation of Americans is too young to remember it. Thirteen soldiers, mostly too young to remember 9/11, died in Afghanistan last week. Most were infants or toddlers when Islamic terrorists flew commercial airplanes into the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon. It is why they fought in Afghanistan in the first place. Maybe they knew; maybe not.
Those of a certain age remember exactly what we were doing, not just that morning of September 11, 2001, but the days that followed. We all have stories. West Point Graduate (2006) and veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Patrick Dowdell has special memories. Especially how the father of this Queens native didn’t come home that night, buried under the rubble of the World Trade Center while trying to save people. He was a fireman. Every 9/11, Dowdell and his friends, family, and father’s former colleagues and friends gather at Station No. 4 in Queens to remember the fallen and their heroism.
Most of us probably do not know someone who lost their life that tragic day. I do. Barbara Olsen was counsel to a US Senator I’d worked for. Barbara was a friend. She was on American Airlines flight 77 that departed Dulles Airport that morning, ostensibly for the west coast, but instead flew into the Pentagon.
More of us, including me, have come to know young men and women whose parents died at the Pentagon or who were related to someone piloting one of the hijacked aircraft that day. My youngest son attended high school and played ice hockey with one such young man, the son of a pilot, David Horrocks; one of my son’s Elon University friends is another, whose father died at the Pentagon, David Laycheck.
Those experiences with those most severely affected (aside from those who died) connect us to the changed lives from that day and the stories of service and heroism surrounding them. They personalize the tragedy of that day. They help us remember.
So, how should we remember and honor the 20th anniversary of that day? How do we process, once again, the events of that day and afterward? Whose stories should we focus on, and why? There are so many. Whose voices should we listen to. . . and ignore?
And most importantly, how do we remember and retell that event as the last great unifying moment we’ve experienced as Americans? What lessons from that experience can we apply to today, when so many are working so hard to tear us asunder under the guise of “social justice?”
The event showed us the best of America and how even now that event is being used - abused - to destroy or diminish American exceptionalism. And as events of the past 3 weeks have shown, all that we have gained and learned can be lost in an instance by the poor judgment, incapacity, and incompetence of a single leader, aided and abetted by a team of bumbling fools.
Forget the perpetrators
Much of the news media will focus on the Islamic perpetrators of the day. You know who they are. I won’t mention them here. Their souls are resting rather uncomfortably in a hot place. Leave them be. They have their reward, and it’s not 72 virgins. Tune out the violent events of the day and efforts by the media to remind us of the villains. They are not the real story.
Remember the First Responders
Lt. Kevin Dowdell, then age 46 and part of Rescue Team 4, is but one of the 412 emergency workers, including 343 firefighters, who died that day trying to save lives. And it wasn’t just the rank and file which lost their lives; the FDNY Chief, Commissioner, Marshal, and Chaplain all died that day. They and so many others sacrificed it all, including repeated trips into the burning towers, to rescue people. Remember that heroism. It is one of the things that makes Americans special.
Lesson: Real leaders show the way and take the greatest risks.
Remember the Heroes of United Flight 93 - “Let’s Roll”
There is no greater example of American exceptionalism than what happened with the 44 passengers on United flight 93 scheduled to fly from Newark International Airport that morning to San Francisco. Let’s let this website tell the story:
Todd Beamer was a 32-year-old Oracle software account manager from Cranbury, New Jersey. He boarded United Airlines Flight 93 which left Newark International Airport bound for San Francisco at 8:43AM on the 11th of September, 2001. The flight had been delayed for 43 minutes due to heavy air traffic. He had planned to be home from a cross-country business trip in time to have breakfast with his family on the 12th of September, 2001
Instead, however, Todd found himself in the midst of a terrorist attack.
When the airplane was hijacked, Todd attempted to place a call through an on-air telephone but was routed to customer services instead. Lisa Jefferson was on the other end of the lime. Todd told her that there were four hijackers with knives that had taken over the plane. “He told me that he had dialed zero to report his plane was being hijacked and he wanted someone to talk to,” she recollected.
With the help of a flight attendant, Todd told Lisa how many passengers and crew were on board. He told Lisa that one of hijackers appeared to have a bomb strapped to his waist and he was standing guard in first class. He described how one flight attended had been stabbed to death (possibly Debbie Welsh) while both the pilot and co-pilot had been forced into the cockpit. He told Lisa that he was safe to talk because the terrorists were in the cockpit and first class. The passengers and crew had been forced towards the back of the airplane.
By this point, two airplanes had already crashed into the World Trade Centre and another had crashed into the Pentagon. Todd was seemingly unaware and asked Lisa if she thought the terrorists wanted money or ransom. Lisa didn’t inform him of the other hijacked airplanes, knowing it would terrify him even further.
After speaking with Lisa for several minutes, Todd’s calm voice went up in pitch. He said that the airplane had went up slightly before sharply turning. Todd asked Lisa if she would recite the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 with him and she did. – “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.” In the background, Lisa heard other passengers joining in, as though for a last rite.
Moments later, the airplane took a dive, causing Todd to exclaim: “Oh God, Lisa!” When Todd told Lisa about his wife and two sons, she asked if he wanted her to try and connect him to them. Todd turned her down, saying he didn’t want to scare his wife, who was expecting their third child. Instead, Todd asked Lisa to let his family know that he loved them “if I don’t make it out of this.” Lisa promised she would.
Lisa continued to talk with Todd about his family before he told her that the passengers had decided to “jump” the hijacker with the bomb and try to take control of the plane. By this time, other passengers who were calling home had learned of the terrorist attack in New York. They knew that things were looking bleak and this was a life or death situation. Moments later, Lisa heard a commotion followed by a number of men and woman screaming. The last words she heard Todd say were: “You ready? Okay, lets roll!” She then heard more commotion before the line went dead.
United Flight 93 had crashed into a field around 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, killing all 44 people on board. The hijacker’s destination was the U.S. Capitol Building. Later, the cockpit voice recorder indicated just how close the brave passengers and crew came to taking back control of the airplane. The cockpit recorder picked up the sound of fighting as the airplane lost control at 30,000 feet. The sound of trolleys crashing and dishes being hurled and smashed can be heard while the terrorists scream at one another to hold the door. One passenger is heard shouting “let’s get them!” followed by more screaming.
How many of you would have done what these brave passengers did that morning? I would hope I would have. I hope never to find out. It was exceptional. Are you a Todd Beamer? Are you teaching your children to be a Todd Beamer? I hope I did. Their heroism saved the world’s greatest symbol of democracy.
Remember How America United Around 9/11 - Left and Right, Democrat and Republican. For years.
Fly and honor the flag
Many people, from large building operators to condo owners (like me), fly flags from front porches and patios. It helps remind us why we have a flag in the first place - a symbol of what unifies us. Our 50 stars representing each state; our 13 strips remind us of our first states and their founders, who sacrificed their “lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.” You will find those words at the end of our Declaration of Independence.
So many today diminish the flag, especially the Betsy Ross flag with its 13 original stars. The deeply misguided and malevolent Colin Kaepernick claimed that that flag on a model of Nike shoes was “racist” because some of the founders owned slaves. Never mind the principles enshrined in our Declaration that would eventually lead hundreds of thousands to sacrifice their lives to end such evil.
The flag symbolizes what unifies us. Remind family and friends what E Pluribus Unum really means. Yes, “out of many, one,” but that our strength emerges from diversity into the unity of vision, values, and purpose. Martin Luther King was right - our founding values require us to become a colorblind nation, not one that divides and defines based on race.
Learn Stories from the Fallen - And Maybe Not Share Yours
The only thing you should read on media this weekend is the stories of those who sacrificed. Their service, their contributions, their history, and the families that carried on without them. You’ve heard many so far, and I’ve shared a couple. Learn new ones. Nearly 3,000 died that day, some from other countries. Learn their stories. Learn and share from them.
That’s what “never forget” means.
Of course, we all remember where we were, what we were doing, and who we were with on 9/11. Some stories may be interesting, but I recommend shying away from that unless someone asks you specifically. And if you choose to answer, be sure to highlight the symbols and spirit of unity that we all shared on that solemn occasion. My own story is not very interesting, other than I drove home to Virginia halfway across the country from Arkansas amidst a marvelous display of American flags and courtesies I’d not experienced . . . ever. And I remember hugging my young boys and my wife longer than usual. Share things like that.
Remember what unified us, and ponder how we can recapture that
So much has been focused on what’s wrong with America over the past several years. The “Pulitzer Prize” winning 1619 project, for example. It claims America’s real founding wasn’t in 1776 with the Declaration of Independence, but the introduction of the slave trade in America. We are totally defined by race, they claim, and we’re all about “white supremacy.”
Pure folly. Pure evil.
Both black and white first responders died on 9/11. Both black and white (and other) passengers died on the 4 airplanes that were hijacked and crashed that day. No one cared about anyone’s race or ethnicity. They knew we were attacked at our core, and no matter what distinguished us from each other, we were all Americans.
Ignore Joe Biden and most politicians this weekend.
After the Biden Administration’s shameful incompetence that turned Afghanistan these past two weeks into a pre-9/11 revived terrorist haven, he has nothing to say this weekend of any value. He has no authority or credibility to speak of 9/11, honor, sacrifice or much of anything else. He should remain in his Wilmington basement all weekend. The only public officials I will listen to this weekend are those who served in Afghanistan or those who altered their lives ’ tragectories because of 9/11. Especially those such as US Senator Tom Cotton, who left college to enlist in the war on terror. There are other similar stories. The late Arizona Cardinal standout Pat Tillman is another, tragically. These stories matter.
Note that the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate are doing nothing to bring Congress or our nation together to commemorate this solemn occasion.
For a decade after 9/11, we remembered what unified us. Who we were.
Work to recapture that spirit in honor of this special day. Pledge to bring it back, to renew it.