It’s only six minutes to eight in the morning on the eleventh of September as I write this, and I’ve already lost count of how many times I’ve seen this statement on Facebook and Twitter.
It’s probably just me, but when I see those words, it sets my teeth on edge. My first immediate thought is, “Oh, so you want me to continue to dwell on this. No thank you. I’ve moved on.”
Then I remember other things.
Never forget that for a few months everyone stopped their bickering and partisanship to come together for a while as Americans and not red states or blue states.
Is that what I’m not supposed to forget? It seems like everyone else has forgotten that we’re Americans first.
Never forget that this day has become our National Day of Navel Gazing and Hand Wringing? If I didn’t need to be online to work, I would just avoid Facebook and Twitter. I don’t need to hear everyone’s stories of how the world changed that day. I’ve heard them or a variation of them before. I don’t want to hear everyone’s personal stories of “my life is forever altered even though I only heard about because I wasn’t actually there.”
I remember the horror, the confusion, and the mixed feelings of shock, fear and then anger. I felt all of them myself. I saw all of that unfold on the news that day and during the days after. I sat on the stuffing line at work that evening listening to a radio and amid the reports and the dazed voices of the newscasters, Ray Charles came on singing “America, The Beautiful.” After an emotionally draining day, I nearly broke down and cried in front of everyone.
It seems that we just can’t pause and remember those who died. We have to make it about “us”. The events that day are not about us as individuals. It’s about the collective us.
There is no collective us anymore. We’ve all decided to head back to our respective corners and stay there. It’s “us vs. them” and the “them” aren’t the people who were responsible for the attacks that day. “Them” are our fellow Americans who are different than us.
Perhaps instead of exhorting that we should “never forget” on this one day every year, we should stop and remember that we’ve really learned nothing from this. We’re not united. We’re divided. We’re at each other’s throats. We demonize other people who don’t believe in the same God as we do, think the same we do, vote the same we do or look the same as we do.
We’re so divided now, that it kills some people to give the President credit when Osama Bin Laden was finally brought down under his watch.
The terrorists won.
So it seems a bit disingenuous to me to throw on the red, white and blue, listen to patriotic songs, wave flags and do other things some do to observe this day to give the illusion of unity when we are far from it.
I have a better idea.
Instead of “never forgetting” for one day in September, how about we “never forget” the other 364 days of the year?
Let’s never forget about those firefighters, first responders, paramedics, and police officers who risked their own lives in the days and months following who now have cancer and other diseases that were caused by inhaling the dust at Ground Zero.
Let’s never forget that these same people risk their lives every single day to save ours and our property and some of the same people who tell us to honor them on 9/11 refer to them as “union thugs” and “greedy” the other days of the year.
Let’s never forget that we’re Americans first. Not Republicans or Democrats. Not Red States or Blue States. Not Religious, Spiritual or Atheist. We’re all in this together, so let’s start acting like it.
Let’s never forget that our greatest enemy is not “the other” or the “boogey man” that some in charge like to trot out. Our greatest enemy is our own fear. As long as we fear each other or allow others to manipulate and play on our worst fears, we lose.
Never forget…we’re stronger than we think we are, but only if we come together.
We’re Americans first. All of us.
Never forget that.