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In the Shadow of Death: 9/11 Remembered

By Lisa Smith Molinari

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Fourteen years ago, I gasped audibly, slapped my hands over my mouth and felt the queasy sting of tears. I had just seen live footage of the south tower of the World Trade Center collapse to the ground in a horrifying explosion.

We all remember where we were when we got the terrifying news that America was under attack. The footage, the images, the stunned correspondents’ reports were not everyday news.

We were used to the endless string of statistics and polls, the latest sensational trial, the steady beat of violent crimes, the political scandals, the relapsed Hollywood entertainers and the tragic multiple car pile-ups. Delivered to us over the radio waves during our morning commutes, in our coffee-stained local newspapers and on the kitchen television while we were cooking pork chops.

Those stories sparked dinner chitchat, but were soon forgotten.

But the news on September 11th was very different. It was raw, unaltered and delivered the clear message that our lives would never be the same.

The 9/11 attacks left a collective gaping wound on the American psyche, which would, surely, never be forgotten.

Or would it?

For those with a personal connection to the nearly 3,000 dead (including 72 law enforcement officers, 343 firefighters and 55 military personnel) the wound of 9/11 remains painfully fresh, and the yearly anniversary continues to be a day of deep sadness.

For others like me, a protective scab has formed. September the 11th is a fairly normal day for us, but it is interspersed with moments of remembrance, when we bow our heads in silence and shudder thinking of the images that shocked us 14 years ago.

But for some, the trauma, the historic death toll and the graphic images are hazy. Clouded by years of desensitizing war, and the ebb and flow of everyday life, September 11th seems like any other day. To complacent adults, and to the younger generation who grew up in a world where Islamic State militants upload videos of gruesome beheadings to YouTube, the 9/11 terror attacks may not seem like that big of a deal.

But they’d be wrong.

September 11th should always stand out as a pivotal day in U.S. history, when Americans were slapped in the face with the frightening truth that terrorists will stop at nothing to accomplish their hateful goals.

Furthermore, the U.S. military responded to the 9/11 attacks by launching Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn. As of this writing, 6,855 U.S. servicepersons have died fighting in those missions, approximately 52,000 U.S. warriors have been wounded and an estimated 400,000 U.S. veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD (woundedwarriorproject.org).

If that isn’t enough to bring the significance of September 11th to the forefront, then one need only consider any one of the innocent men, women and children who died that day.

Think of Todd Beamer for instance. He was one of 37 passengers on United Flight 93 who realized that their hijackers were on a suicide mission. Beamer, while making plans with other passengers and flight attendants to thwart the hijackers’ plot to crash the plane into a building, asked Lisa Jefferson, the GTE Airphone supervisor he was speaking with on the seatback telephone, to recite the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm with him. After praying, Beamer said to his fellow passengers, “Are you ready? Okay. Let’s roll,” before they heroically rushed the cockpit and the plane crashed into an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

If we are ever to successfully combat terrorism, the intervening 14 years should not bury our outrage under the minutia of everyday life. Every September 11th, we must remove the bandage, rip the scab off the wound and feel the raw pain anew.

Lisa Smith Molinari is an award-winning syndicated columnist, author, blogger, speaker and contributing writer for SEABEE Online. Check out her blog, The Meat and Potatoes of Life, at http://themeatandpotatoesoflife.com/about/


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