Editorial: Our generation must preserve 9/11 memory

Esteban Diaz | Editorial Cartoonist
A test of the Tribute in Light rises above One World Trade Center and lower Manhattan on Thursday in New York City. The memorial, sponsored by the Municipal Art Society, will light the sky on the evening of Sept. 11 in honor of those who died ten years ago in the terror attacks on the United States.
Associated Press

It’s difficult to find a starting point for this editorial.

That might be because on Sunday, when we look back on the last 10 years, we’ll see that Sept. 11, 2001, was as much the same to everyone as it was different to each individual person.

We all remember the World Trade Center attacks. We remember the disbelief, fear, anger, shock and other uncontrollable emotions evoked by what we saw. There is no denying the scale of the attacks in American history.

Yet at the same time, every demographic of readers were affected differently.

For Baylor’s class of 2012, history changed right as those students were reaching the age of developing their social and political ideologies. War and national security became a topic those 11- and 12-year-olds would have to grasp just to be considered educated, aware citizens through their junior high and high school years.

Most current freshmen were third-graders, able to understand the images from the attacks but probably years away from comprehending the political implications.

Faculty and staff might remember having to explain the events to their young children, while others were taking their first steps into the real world after graduation.

For some, the attacks hit home more than others. Some readers might have lost family or friends in the attacks. Maybe some were there, in New York City or its surrounding area when the planes struck the towers.

And there are those who were nowhere close to New York City and knew nobody physically hurt in the attacks; they could only watch the tragedy unfold from thousands of miles away.

But regardless of the different ways we woke up and began that day, many of us finished it the same way.

By the end of the day, our schedules and obligations, even if just for that day, seemed a little less significant. Regardless how it impacted us, all of us, the third graders and young adults alike, knew people were hurting and nothing could repair that.

Now 10 years later, it doesn’t matter exactly how we remember Sept. 11 or what specific details we recall. The important thing is that we do, in fact, remember it.

There are several stories in today’s Lariat about how people and groups are memorializing all those involved and all those who suffered on Sept. 11.

All of those gatherings, the Lost Heroes Art Quilt, the W. R. Poage Legislative Library exhibit and the Islamic Center of Waco’s candlelight vigil to name a few, are not just commendable – they are a necessity. Sept. 11 is one of this generation’s defining events.

Previous generations dealt with Vietnam, and before that came Pearl Harbor and the subsequent World War II involvement. To this day there are still memorials in America and around the world commemorating those generation-defining times.

What will people say about Sept. 11, 2001, 50 years from now? If we do our job, it won’t change much from what we’ve been saying over the last decade.

It is our job to keep this part of our history alive. It’s not to create a national day of sorrow, but to make sure our children, our children’s children and so forth know both the triumphs and tribulations our country has experienced.

It’s not about politics, either. Whether you support the war on terror or abhor it, we all look the photos and video from Sept. 11 and reach a consensus. People stumbling away from the World Trade Center or leaping to their deaths from the upper floors suffered terribly. Firefighters and everyday citizens who tried to save those lives were heroes.

We all have things we’re looking forward to or need to accomplish this weekend. That’s fine, but for at least a moment, let’s reflect on the last 10 years. Let’s think about what might have been the worst day in America’s history in the new millennium, and let’s appreciate people willing to give their lives to something larger than themselves. More than anything else, let’s make sure future generations think about that as well.