There has been much discussion about how we should commemorate the awful attack on America on Sept. 11, 2001, in which Islamic terrorists killed some 3,000 Americans, destroyed the two tallest buildings in New York, crashed into a section of the Pentagon and destroyed four airliners. How could Americans ever forget such events?
Yet, I heard one individual on a talk show suggest that we commemorate the events of 9-11 on that first anniversary and then put the whole thing behind us. Forget it.
I don’t think most Americans would agree that we ought to forget 9-11, as if it were a bad dream. It was anything but a dream. It was stark, brutal reality, and the video footage will be with us for as long as this country exists.
History is an exercise in remembering – not forgetting – and the events of 9-11 are now part of our history. Back in 1986, Dr. R.J. Rushdoony wrote:
Memory is basic to the life of man. … Most people think very little of the importance of memory, either personal or cultural. … But history is simply a religious memory of the past. In our history, we remember the faith, men and events which we recognize as basic to our lives.
Nowhere is that statement more true than in the lives of the Jewish people. Each year, at Passover, Jews remember their enslavement in Egypt and the great Exodus led by Moses. That is why the Old Testament is so vital to the continuity and survival of the Jews. The need to remember was inculcated in the Jews by their biblical leaders, and it remains with them to this day.
Christians, too, mark their calendar with such important days of remembrance as Christmas and Easter. Our own history has its calendar of remembrance. July 4 is the central celebration of American independence and individual freedom. Humanists tried to persuade Americans to use July 4, 1976, to celebrate American Interdependence Day. But that idea was rejected by a people who need to believe in the Declaration of Independence if they are to believe in anything about their country.
We celebrate Thanksgiving Day, although most Americans couldn’t tell you to whom we are giving thanks. So, the holiday has become family-get-together-day. Yet, the possibility is always there to recapture the true meaning of the occasion.
Our nation’s memory has been solidified in stone and concrete. Monuments in Washington celebrate our Founding Fathers. Mount Rushmore tells us whom among our presidents we should revere. Our coins and paper money reflect our illustrious past. Although the public schools have done all in their power to erase the past from the minds of our children, those monuments commemorating the past are not about to crumble.
Rushdoony writes: “The purpose of stripping men of their past is to reshape them into whatever form their elite rulers choose. The result, however, is not a new man, but a lost and dying man.”
Americans will want to remember 9-11 for many years to come. What form that remembrance will take will be seen in the years ahead. The fact that this horrendous nightmare has been reduced to the numbers 9-11 means that this date will not be forgotten.
It is a date that conjures up all sorts of sad and tragic pictures – of people going to work in those two towers, not knowing that they would soon be burnt to death by an airliner crashing into their office, or that those trapped on the upper floors would have to choose between leaping out a window or being burned alive.
I am haunted by all of those horrible predicaments that ordinary human beings faced on that day. Those young energetic stock traders who had to decide how to die before they knew how to live. And those on the hijacked planes who called their loved ones to say goodbye. Each one of the 3,000 individuals who lost their lives has a story to tell.
And what can one say of those waiters, busboys and dishwashers at the finest restaurant in New York atop Tower One, knowing that they were about to die, that there was no way of saving them. All their dreams, their loves, their hard work about to be destroyed by the hatred of men they knew nothing about. In an instant, their ordinary lives had become Greek tragedies.
Yes, there’s an awful lot to remember on 9-11 … an awful lot not to forget.