We will never forget. Everyday life has returned to normal almost two decades after the brazen attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The Day That Changed the World also changed the way we experienced that world. We sought some hidden meaning for what happened in popular music. Popular cinema looked much less like escapism and more like terrible affirmation that art imitates life. Everything we saw and heard was refracted by the prism of death and horror.
Nothing lasts forever, not even grief and despair. A new school year began last week, and it’s strange to think that barely 17 years ago, the class of 2019 either was not born yet or were just toddlers. Today’s high schoolers are the avatars of a new generation that is learning about 9/11 in American history classes, seeing it in replays of that terrible morning or hearing about it from parents or relatives who remember exactly where they were when the planes hit.
It is said that memories are designed to fade, but memories of 9/11 will not go away. Yet they have changed. The vivid scenes of destruction televised that morning, looking so much like a nightmarish action movie, a sick special effects joke, are acquiring a patina of gray, of fear, flames and disbelief locked in a glacier. The Y2K generation remembers the nauseating crash of the planes into metal spires, of the innocent victims trapped in their offices, never knowing what was happening to them. The post-9/11 generation knows only the aftermath — death tolls, memorials, a world shaken by war and terrorism.
We will still remember the people who died that day. By Congressional decree, Sept. 11 was named Patriot Day and today at 12:30 p.m. Columbia-Greene Community College will hold a remembrance ceremony on the lawn outside the main building at the flag pole. We will honor military personnel and first responders who sacrificed their lives that fateful morning and who later paid the ultimate price from 9/11-related respiratory illnesses and cancers years after the disaster.
We will also remember the nearly 3,000 people killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the courageous passengers of Flight 93. Plan to attend this event or one in your town of village. It’s essential to remember 9/11 because it definitively answers the question, How did we get here?. It’s also necessary to stimulate the present generation to learn all they can about those terrible events so they, too, will never forget.