As we approach the 20th anniversary of one of our country’s worst tragedies, the devastating Sept. 11 attacks, there have been debates as to why we should remember such a day, given that young people now, were not even born when this event took place.
The real question is, why SHOULDN’T we remember such an event? Our country has always been somber on days like June 6, (D-Day), Dec. 7, (Pearl Harbor), or the bloodiest day in all of American history, Sept. 17, (the Battle of Antietam during the Civil War).
What we can never forget, is that these are all HUMAN tragedies, and that all losses of life, no matter how big or small, must be remembered at all costs. This is also important because we must honor those who died trying to prevent further loss of life. The firefighters, police officers, and paramedics who were killed that day; it is up to us to ensure their bravery and heroism can never be tossed aside.
After we were struck with such catastrophic loss of life on 9/11, this feeling that we call the American spirit, did not just falter and die. We climbed back out when the enemy expected us to drown in our own sorrow and hopelessness. Our thirst for justice only increased our resolve. We delivered a crystal-clear message that an act of terror on such a massive scale would not be tolerated. Three days after the attacks, on Sept. 14, 2001, President George W. Bush went to the ruins of the World Trade Center and delivered what would become one of the most inspiring speeches in history. He promised the American people that their calls for justice would not go unheard, saying “I can hear you. I hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down, will hear all of us soon.” These words rang in our ears and convinced an entire generation, as well as the one after that, to fight for what was right.
The President's quick response also teaches us the value of decisive action and strong leadership. Following nearly two decades of war in Afghanistan, and all the carnage that we have seen as a result of it, reminds us that we must also remember all the men and women who lost their lives in a conflict that arose from them trying to avenge their own fallen brothers and sisters.
For us as Americans to forget the reason why all these soldiers were sent in the first place, would be nothing short of an outright betrayal. The memories of the 9/11 victims are memories that must never be forgotten. Because of everything that has occurred since, these men and women have a notable place in history. Keeping them close is a strong reminder to my generation that respect is sacred, and that preserving the memory of these individuals, even though we may not have known them or their families personally, should be considered an honor, sense of duty, and preservation of national pride. My generation needs to understand how fortunate we are to not have witnessed this tragedy first hand. However, our parents and other close family did, and I can say for a fact that I felt very humbled and a deep sense of respect when I listened to their accounts about how that awful day unfolded. It was very hard to listen to my mom and dad’s account of the story as they heard the majority of the attack on their car radio that fateful September morning. They saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center, and the second tower fall, but not being able to see the first plane hit, and having to picture all the chaos in their heads, gave me a deep sense of just how difficult 9/11 really was, since I lived it through their words and their memories.
We must understand that no human being should ever have to experience what happened that day. I believe 9/11 greatly impacted the events that are playing out right now across the world. We have seen the war in Afghanistan progress and play out during our lifetimes. We witnessed the last decade of the war, as well as oversaw its evacuation and conclusion.
We can never lose sight of the reason that sent all these individuals on the path to their destiny. Western Civilization prides itself on honoring its dead in the highest possible ways. It is up to the Americans of today, as well as those of tomorrow, to ensure that the promise of remembrance is never broken.
Brady Shuler is a junior at Liberty High School. His work was selected as the winner of an essay contest hosted by the Bakersfield Firefighters Historical Society, for which the Kern County Superintendent of Schools partnered to help judge the submissions. Students were asked to address this topic: The Sept. 11 attacks happened 20 years ago and school-aged students were not alive then. Why is it so important for us as U.S. citizens to remember the attack and honor the victims?