Today, I’ll go about my usual routine, but everything will have the sacred stillness of an abandoned battlefield. I’ll turn on the over-the-air news and be disappointed that they aren’t broadcasting the reading of the names. They don’t seem to show that anymore on non-cable channels, and I’m not sure if they show it on cable channels either since I haven’t had it in years. I guess celebrity news and weather stories are more important than remembering, even if it happened a few blocks from where their studio sits.
I’ll spend the day with middle schoolers who weren’t even born when it happened and high schoolers who were too young to remember but who at least still know why this day is special.
I’ll remember what it was like to be my students’ age, watching the events unfold. Waiting. Praying. Wondering when Dad will get home because he worked by a potential target. Wondering where that last plane was. Remembering the loss and the incredible courage. Remembering what it was like to look outside and not see a single airplane — something unfathomable, living so close to an airport.
I’ll remember stumbling across Shanksville on a family road trip six months later. At a gas station, we asked where Flight 93 went down and drove through winding neighborhoods to pay our respects. Nothing but a fence covered in mementos, a mound already covered again with grass, and a resident volunteer sitting there to watch over the site and talk to those who stopped.
Gettysburg was sobering, but this was a different kind of sobering. Sorrow mixed with pride. This is what it is to be an American: if someone plans to take us down, we fight.
Today, I’ll remember it all because we must never forget.