Casting light on the shadows of 9/11



September 11, 2018 - 9:07 AM

In the hours, days and weeks that followed Sept. 11, 2001, citizens throughout our communities taped American flags printed in newspapers to windows as a show of solidarity.
The pages were ephemeral, colors dimming in the sunlight as summer segued to autumn.
We changed as well. Fear gradually surrendered to empathy. It was a time of small but welcome kindnesses exchanged between strangers. Americans waved red and blue rather than red or blue. The 50 stars on the flag represented a constellation; today they seem to be in different galaxies.
As a new school year begins, the incoming college freshmen have no recollections of that defining day in American history. Nor do the youngest members of our military who have pledged to protect the nation.
In the absence of memory, there is an obligation of teachers — not just the ones in the classroom — to remind the next generation of those days when the world changed, when it became smaller. There is no substitute for oral history, as individual storytelling summons emotion, reflection and personal experience that film, books and art can only strive to emulate.
In 2018, what are the lessons of 9/11?
The facts are easy enough to share with students. Two planes slammed into the highest points of the Manhattan skyline, causing them to topple into the streets. Another crashed into the Pentagon; a fourth was diverted by passengers from a Washington, D.C., target into a Pennsylvania field.
Some 3,000 people were killed. Another 6,000 had physical injuries, while first responders continue to suffer from exposure to toxins released at Ground Zero.
There are also scars we can’t see. For a few years, we stood wounded, but united. Divided, we are falling.
The map of the United States has been pockmarked by shootings at schools and churches.
Our ability to respond to crisis failed when the Federal Emergency Management Agency left Puerto Rico to suffer in darkness in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria almost a year ago.
The highest office in the land is being criticized from within by an unprecedented anonymous op-ed.
Pained discourse over the national anthem has been leveraged for an advertising campaign for sneakers.
One lesson of 9/11 that is worth reviving is the power of our two political parties declaring a truce.
Another is to honor its federal recognition as a “National Day of Service and Remembrance.” Our youngest Americans lack the ability to recall the events of 17 years ago, and need us to cast light on the shadows of 9/11, just as later generations need to be taught the tragedy and legacy of Dec. 7, 1941.
The anniversary arrives on another Tuesday as an invitation to remember, to imagine, to grieve, to heal, to volunteer, to consider alternate perspectives, to treat one another with dignity.
It is day to recognize that we are fragile, but stronger as states united.
— The Stamford (Conn.) Advocate

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