09:41:15 AM, September 11, 2001. New York. The man appears to be wearing a light-colored long-sleeved shirt and dark slacks. The orange tee shirt beneath is only visible later. His arms are pressed to his sides, probably fixed there by the fantastic air pressure coming at him from all sides. One knee is bent as though he’s been caught taking his next step. He’s head-down, as if he’d just taken a final, brave step from a high-dive and is rushing to meet the water below, but he is not; later images depict the tumbling trajectory of his dive. His identity remains uncertain, although a sound engineer – and asthmatic – by the name of Jonathon Briley has been named by family members as a probable subject. One can imagine, but never know, what thoughts must have filled the man’s mind as he dropped through air like a doomed stone: Terrible, wrenching sorrow. Mind-numbing terror. And, perhaps, in some hidden corner of his mind, the desire that his death would not be forgotten; his murder would not go un-avenged. He is The Falling Man, and it has been 13 years since he and some 200 others fell or were blasted from the World Trade Center courtesy of terrorists hell-bent on destroying America and all She stands for.
You know where you were when news of the terrorist attacks reached you. Having pulled a long shift the previous evening at an emergency veterinary clinic, this writer was groggy and unfocused when the call came to turn the news on. My bedroom’s television was filled immediately with images of the smoky first tower, and as I watched, alone with my dogs Romeo and Angel, the second plane hit. Not many realize my father was due at the Pentagon on business on 9/11 – just one of the reasons I vehemently fight back when naysayers question the authenticity of American Airlines Flight 77 – and as I flew into action that day, in the back of my mind were penetrating thorns of worry over his silence. 9/11 remains as fresh and vivid in my mind’s eye today as it was then. Where were you?
A lot has happened in 13 years. The conspiracy theories have multiplied to staggering proportions, filling websites, books, and internet chat rooms. An entire generation of children exists in a perpetual state of complete unfamiliarity with the events of 9/11 due to their parents not telling them about it (some would blame the school systems, but true fault lies with the parents, not the government babysitters). Our tenuous hold in the Middle East has not only slipped but been snapped by ISIS. The more than 100 babies of 9/11 – children with fathers killed on that day while their mothers still carried them – are entering junior high. And, perhaps most damning, an alarming majority of the population has forgotten it all.
The forgetfulness of Americans is simultaneously infuriating and agonizing. 2,977 innocents were slaughtered that day by a vicious group of terrorists whose bloodlust must have overwhelmed their sense of logic; after all, attacking the most powerful nation on earth on their own soil is certainly guaranteed to result in a serious ass-kicking. And one would think such murderous intent would not soon be forgotten, right? Wrong. Call it selective memory, call it wishful thinking, but there are tens of thousands – probably hundreds of thousands – of Americans wandering around at this very moment content to sip their lattes, swipe at their smart phones, and forget 9/11 ever happened. It’s comfortable; it’s safe. The pervading belief that no one should be forced to live in fear has been taken to the nth degree, because now people are living in a state of denial.
To many, the terror of 9/11 was a lifetime ago. Security in the form of invasive searches and stringent restrictions at airports has kept American airplanes safe from hijackers. The Patriot Act, first created under President George W. Bush but expanded in rather important ways by President Barack Obama, purportedly plays a major role in guarding our shores. Our military is on the job overseas, our service members serving in the sandbox, and our law enforcement officers are on the job in the States. And when something fright-inducing occurs – like the soldier beheaded by a Muslim in the streets of the U.K. – our government comes onto our screens and smart phones and pats our heads. There, there, they say, the monsters in the closet aren’t real. They’re worlds away, and you’re safe. Big Brother is on the job.
On August 19, 2014, a video was released of American journalist James Foley, who once worked for Stars and Stripes, being beheaded after spending a year in captivity. Then, on September 2, 2014, a new video was released of another American journalist, Steven Sotloff, being beheaded; experts point to various signs as evidence the videos were, indeed, made on different days. The public has responded with some of the expected horror and fear; President Obama released a brief statement to the press before returning to his golf game. However, everyone has been clearly relieved the bloodshed and torture is taking place overseas. Thank goodness the atrocities haven’t reached our shores… Wait. What?
Have you truly forgotten, America? Have you forgotten the sight of airplanes commandeered by crazed members of al-Qaeda crashing head-long into the Twin Towers? Have you forgotten the almost-3,000 people killed on that day? Have you forgotten the pain of the families of the lost, the “Lost” signs covering New York like perverse wallpaper? Have you forgotten the courage and sacrifice of our first responders, and of strangers on the street? Have you forgotten the bone-deep sorrow and desire for revenge that surely filled your very souls?
The sickness behind the beheadings of Foley and Sotloff is not new. Daniel Pearl was beheaded on February 1, 2002, while his pregnant wife awaited his return back in the United States; perhaps she was physically safe, but her emotional death cannot be discounted. Nick Berg was beheaded on May 7, 2004. The Rules of Engagement are known by our enemies, who have their very own book – the Manchester Manual – to manipulate our statutes to their benefit, actions which have resulted in heaven knows how many maimings and deaths for our service members. And while it is absolutely true that politics is a sticky wicket, it is also true that nothing, oh, nothing, can top man’s cruelty to man, or the terrorist’s perversities against America.
It has been 13 years since 9/11. The fear that once gripped America has eased perhaps too much. Because, you see, those who wish us harm are not gone, in fact, their numbers are even greater today than they were before. Some believe keeping the gore and shock of The Falling Man on 9/11 out of the media – because those initial photographs were immediately branded distasteful and wrong – serves as a necessary insulation of the American people. Others believe visual proof of the evils being carried out against us should not only be made available but shown in the mainstream media, because wearing blinders does not protect you from the vipers in the road, it only makes you unaware of their presence until it’s too late.
There is no excuse for being unaware, though, because we have seen terror on our soil before. Forgetting the events of 9/11 doesn’t make the horror any less, it only shows a lack of respect for the dead and a willful nescience regarding the hatred we face from strangers half a world away. Failing to teach our children about 9/11 is no minor detail, it’s a horrendous mistake. And refusing to fight back, refusing to stand up for the very Second Amendment rights that will serve to protect you should terror reach your doorstep, well, that is a level of gutlessness our founding fathers would be ashamed to witness.
Do not forget the blood of the thousands that soaked into the earth below the Twin Towers on that day 13 years ago. Yes, it is painful to remember, and yet remembering shows you have something the terrorists do not: spine. It is one thing, after all, to sneak into a country undetected and stealthily plan a surprise attack against an airplane full of defenseless people (although, by the way, we Americans would rather take that plane down, sacrificing ourselves, than see it reach its murderous destination, as the passengers of United 93 proved). It is quite another to boldly face Americans on their own turf, and such bravado would require spine. Spine our service members demonstrate in monumental proportions as they face the enemy during deployments and countless (successful) missions. After all, as the famous quote rightly states, “You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass.”
Today we remember 9/11: the horror and pain of the dead, the heroism of the first responders, the courage of members of SAR (Search and Rescue), and the overwhelming kindness of strangers. As a nation, we shed tears of disbelief and horror, and when the dust settled, we gathered our righteous anger, and fought back. We have proven time and again to be a nation of enormous strength, capable of coming back from destruction and terror of many kinds, and one of the strongest things we can do is refuse to forget. Never forget the atrocities of 9/11, and always, always come back swinging, whatever the threat may be, whatever its source may be.
“Now this nation that I love has fallen under attack, a mighty sucker punch came flyin’ in from somewhere in the back. Soon as we could see clearly through our big black eye, man we lit up your world like the fourth of July.
Hey Uncle Sam put your name at the top of his list and the Statue of Liberty started shakin’ her fist, and the eagle will fly, man, it’s gonna be hell, when you hear Mother Freedom start ringin’ her bell. And it feels like the whole world is raining down on you.
Brought to you courtesy of the red, white, and blue.
Justice will be served, and the battle will rage. This big dog will fight when you rattle his cage, and you’ll be sorry that you messed with the U S of A, cause we’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the American way.”
Toby Keith, Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue
Author’s Note: Opinions and views expressed in this article are the author’s alone and do not reflect the views of the company. To remember those lost on 9/11, please visit: http://www.foxnews.com/story/2009/09/10/list-victims-from-sept-11-2001/.
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