I began writing this blog post last night. I had wanted to published it this morning at 8:46AM* for some small attempt at symbolism and tribute.
But my thoughts and ideas for what I wanted to say were too jumbled; too vast to narrow down into any coherent form. But, today is slipping away and I must commit to some of the thoughts and publish this article before the day ends and time and the world keep moving on.
On this day in 2001, millions and millions of residents of the World witnessed a heinous crime with the murder of 2966 men, women and children. These victims perished in the fall of the buildings at the World Trade Center and in the crashes of four commercial airliners and in the rubble and fire of the Pentagon as one of the planes crashed into that building. 19 murderers also perished in a quest for some sick sense of glory, duty or martyrdom through suicide.
The cries, the pain, the anguish, the fear and the anger were felt around the World by the people who saw the events unfold on their televisions. But, those fears and feelings were not just Earth-bound, they rose to the heavens and to the crew of the International Space Station. They photographed the fire and the smoke as it was lifted into the atmosphere; seemingly sending a signal to the Universe that humanity had committed another atrocity against its own self.
It is unnerving to our psyche to witness a murder, or the death of someone we know and to see it unfold on TV was numbing. Imagine you are astronaut, Frank Culbertson. the lone American on a space station seeing the destruction from high above; of learning that one of your Naval Academy classmates were one of the doomed pilots aboard one of those planes, and you are able to observe the beauty of our planet rotating in time and space scarred for just a moment in time–by death, fire and smoke.
The days after the September 11th attacks included mourning, grief, and the gruesome task of sifting through the rubble for bodies and the hope to discover survivors. That hope was short-lived and gave way to the daunting task of just deciding who perished; who was missing; what were their names; who were their families and how their deaths would affect those they left. For some of their families, the identities derived from the remains of their bodies, would give closure. That closure came within days and weeks for some; and for others it would take many years.
NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 13, 2001: Photo by BETH A. KEISER/AFP/Getty Images
In those days, weeks, and months following September 11th, 2001, our nation was truly one nation under God. We put aside our differences and we all became Americans. We remembered the victims names, their lives, their families. We honored the heroes that were the first responders, the police, the firefighters, and the rescue workers. We grieved as a nation and then…like we were encouraged by our leaders…we moved on. Time moved on. Our Earth still continued to turn, even though we felt it stop on that terrible day.
And now 17 years later, we still commemorate the day of September 11. We still say that we shall never forget, but each year seems to pass by quicker and quicker. Each year, the day seems to sneak up upon us and we are only reminded by the media that it is still our duty to, “Never Forget”.
But, already it is difficult to remember the fate of the perpetrators of that awful day. We may never know if their demise was proper justice meted out immediately for their actions; or if they too, were victims in some way.
We do know that their co-conspirators have been detained for the last 12 years, and have undergone much torture and punishment for their actions and shall not face any other decided judgement for many years to come. Legal proceedings for their involvement could last another 18 years before being completely resolved. By the time the last judgement is given; 34 years will have surely past. Will we still remember then? Will it be no more than a mention in the news on the day it happens? I hope that we will remember. I hope that we will remember their names and their acts of murder.
I hope that we still remember some of the names of the nearly 3000 that perished on that day. I hope we remember that real lives, real people were attached to those names. I hope we remember their loss affected more lives than just their immediate families. Their lives continued to ripple through time and its vast memory.
BILLY COLLINS, poet laureate of the United States; 2001-2003, penned his poem, “The Names”, in 2002 in tribute to the victims of the September 11 attacks. In the poem, he saw their names everywhere he looked.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers…
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.
Full Transcript of “The Names” by Billy Collins.
Time moves on. Our lives move on. These names live on. In time’s memory, in our memory–these names deserve to live on.
“NO DAY SHALL ERASE YOU FROM THE MEMORY OF TIME.”
* 8:46AM EDT On September 11, 2001–The first plane; Flight 11 crashes at roughly 466 mph into the north face of the North Tower (1 WTC) of the World Trade Center, between floors 93 and 99.