When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared December 7, 1941, as “a day which will live in infamy,” little did he or any other man or woman listening under the sound of his voice ever expect that the United States would face yet another aerial attack, similar to the one experienced in Pearl Harbor, six decades later. America had fought strong and hard through World War II to assert and defend its leadership on the world stage. This nation and its allies persevered in the face of insurmountable odds and unfathomable sacrifice. Thanks to this sacrifice, through the second half of the twentieth century, it was apparent that the United States was a world leader, a superpower, a force few other nations wished to reckon with. But then 2001 happened—or to be more specific, September 11, 2001, happened.
It was yet another day which to this day lives on in infamy. Hardly an adult alive at the time of the attacks forgets where they were when they first heard the news or saw the footage of the harrowing disaster that screeched our modern world to a halt. I was both fortunate and unfortunate to have been a four-year-old at the time. I was fortunate, because I was still too young to fully understand the scope of what happened on that day, so in a sense my ignorance—or perhaps, my innocence—spared me much of the pain those a few years older than I experienced. Paradoxically, I was unfortunate, however, because I will never fully relate to those who can remember, though at the time I generally understood what happened.
Fast forward seventeen years. Here we are on Tuesday, September 11, 2018. I now am employed within the aviation industry, brushing shoulders with those who were present in the industry on that terrible Tuesday in 2001. Several of my colleagues remember clearly the events they experienced that day. They remember greeting diverted aircraft. They remember administering aide to passengers who were stranded in strange locations. They remember the pain of those who lost loved ones in the attacks, without any hope of changing fate, or restoring a life, or preventing the unpreventable. They sacrificed their time and their emotions to make the lives of many others at least a little bit better.
While reviewing old footage filmed near Ground Zero immediately following the attacks, it is apparent that fear shivered through every witness in the streets of New York. But as quickly as fear struck the hearts of millions, so too did determination and hope strike back in greater force. As President Roosevelt also said, “[T]he only thing we have to fear is...fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.”
People died that day to prevent further calamity. People died that day so countless others could live. All of us who remain should be thankful for their heroism, and I think the greatest way we can honor their legacy is by continuing our push through the dark clouds of today. Even though we presently face many challenges, we must always remember those who faced even greater challenges yesterday. We must honor those who succeeded, as well as those who succumbed. Both groups have much wisdom to share, if not through their words, so through their deeds. By returning evil with good, we can restore our world to a civility it so desperately needs, and perhaps—just perhaps—we can prevent another catastrophe as horrendous as those our world faced in the past.
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