Remembering 9-11 — Twenty Years Later

As we approach the 20th Anniversary of the terrorist attacks upon America on September 11, 2001, we need to help those of the next generation, who were not even born yet when the attacks occurred, understand what happened on that tragic day.

I’ve been watching the remembrances of that day on various news programs and documentaries the last several days. My kids even watched one of the programs with me, and they asked me why those planes flew into the buildings. I tried to explain it to them in a way that they could understand. My youngest one now sees all planes as a threat and calls them “mean planes.” I wonder if maybe he was too young to watch the footage. It seems to have frightened him a bit. Yet I feel like it’s important that we teach the next generation about what happened, just as earlier generations taught us about Pearl Harbor.

So I’ve come up with seven lessons that I think we need to teach to the younger generations about 9-11. Actually, these seven items are good reminders for us all, no matter our age, to keep in mind as we remember that day:

1) Honoring the Victims and Their Families

First and foremost, our hearts go out to the families of the victims and those who were directly affected by the events of that day. We remember them in our thoughts and prayers, and we listen to their stories to help us understand what they’ve been through.

2) Honoring the Sacrifice of the Heroes

From the first responders who rushed into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon to the people on United Flight 93, whose brave actions prevented further devastation, there were many heroes that day who sacrificed their lives to save others. We should be thankful for these wonderful people and remember what they did. They are examples of bravery, selflessness, and love to us all.

3) Each day is a gift.

If there’s one obvious lesson from that day, it’s that it started out as a normal day and what happened was completely unexpected. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. We should see each day as a gift from God. And we have to be ready to meet Him at all times because none of us know when our last day will be. Listening to the phone calls of people on board Flight 93 to their family members is heartbreaking and sobering. We are reminded to hug our families a little tighter and tell them that we love them.

4) The Horror of that Day

After 20 years, it is natural for the intensity and horror of that day to subside somewhat. Whenever I watch a documentary about 9-11, the news footage of the attacks brings back the feelings of shock and dread. FDR called Pearl Harbor a day that “will live in infamy.” Similarly, I think 9-11 is such a day, probably even more so.

5) Our Society Changed Forever that Day

Things were never the same for our country after 9-11. It was like much of our innocence was lost. From the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to increased surveillance and security to new feelings of vulnerability, 9-11 was a watershed moment, a dividing line in our history. Sadly, the unity of 9-12 quickly evaporated, and we are now a bitterly divided nation.

6) Who Committed the Attacks

Sometimes I’ll watch a news story on the attacks and there is no mention of Al-Qaeda or Islamic terrorists. I think this is a mistake. After all, whenever we talk about Pearl Harbor, Japan is usually mentioned. If we don’t remember who it was that attacked us, how will we prevent it from happening again? This issue is especially relevant in light of the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban to power in that country.

7) Freedom is Fragile

Finally, we need to remember and teach others that freedom is not guaranteed. It is fragile and must be preserved and maintained. Ronald Reagan reminded us that freedom is “never more than one generation away from extinction.” He went on to say that freedom “must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation.” We would do well to remember that we have enemies who want to destroy our country and the freedom that we enjoy.

“The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.” –John Philpot Curran

On this 20th anniversary of 9-11, spend some time reflecting upon the events of that day. Pray for the victims and their families. Pray also for healing for our nation and wisdom for our leaders. May such reflections cause us to appreciate our families more and not take them for granted. And may it make us more grateful for the blessings and mercies that we enjoy from the hand of God.

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