Editorial: Fragility, memory — and strength: Reflection on a terror anniversary

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What can you do with a day such as this?

No one wants this anniversary, so the answer isn’t easy.

World Trade Center towers billow smoke after terrorists flew two airplanes into the New York City landmark Sept. 11, 2001.

Wikimedia Commons / Michael Foran

World Trade Center towers billow smoke after terrorists flew two airplanes into the New York City landmark Sept. 11, 2001.

Even 15 years later, the horror, fear and losses of Sept. 11, 2001, echo in our memories. There have been terrible events before and since, but if ever a day showed us the contrast between good and evil, it was that bright Tuesday morning.

Here in Central Massachusetts, Sept. 11, 2001, started out as one of those great, fleeting days — sunshine casting a delectable sweetness that is rare even for this gentle, transitional time of year. But the morning’s calm promise was shattered by Islamic terrorists on four planes, including two that had taken off from Boston’s Logan International Airport.

The black, billowing smoke, the rushing rescuers, people with briefcases dropping to their deaths, the collapses, the confusion, the “I love you” phone calls, the brave phrase “Let’s roll,” teachers and parents shielding the eyes and hearts of young children, and the eerily silent skies in the aftermath became part of a day the world will never forget.

What stands out, too, is the response.

World Trade Center, New York City, Sept. 16, 2001.

Wikimedia Commons

World Trade Center, New York City, Sept. 16, 2001.

What the attacks did to the victims and their families is still difficult to take in, but right away, we reacted with our best.

The words, actions and feelings of people everywhere combined into an immense force of caring, dedication and connection.

Against the hollowness and horror of that day rose community, love, contribution and resolve that were just as extraordinary. That lives in stories, memories and the poignant observances that will be held today — and deserves to be remembered as faithfully as we recall the acres of debris and embers, the funerals, and the first shocking understanding that our country was under attack.

Like Sept. 11, tragedies of different scales — the Boston Marathon bombings of April 15, 2013, for instance, or the Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse and Co. fire of Dec. 3, 1999 — bring good to the fore.

World Trade Center Tribute in Light Memorial, Sept. 11, 2010.

Wikimedia Commons

World Trade Center Tribute in Light Memorial, Sept. 11, 2010.

They make us stronger because they show us what we’re capable of.

How to properly honor the hundreds of innocents killed in the terror strikes on the twin towers of New York City’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the planned Washington, D.C., attack passengers thwarted into a crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania — not to mention, how to unravel forever the dark knot of terror — are questions that make us uneasy each anniversary.

America and its military, along with its global partners, must continue sophisticated work against Islamic terrorism on multiple fronts.

One of the reflecting pools at the National September 11 Memorial.

Pixabay

One of the reflecting pools at the National September 11 Memorial.

Meanwhile, 15 years forward, the rest of us need to keep packing everything we can into the days that are ordinary, including things like appreciation, kindness, hard work and taking care of each other. We’re still here, together, and in numbers vastly larger than the ones who would tear everything down.

What can you do with a day such as this? Live it.

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