This Sept. 11 marks the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Flight 92 in Shanksville, Pa.
It was a day that I, and my family, will never forget. I come from a Navy family. Myself, my wife and four of my six brothers have all served, and we had all worked to keep this country safe. And as a brother, who had an older sibling (an active duty Navy Captain) die in the Pentagon, I was struck at how quickly an attack like this can hit close to home.
My family has pledged never to let that day pass without remembering the lives lost, and the loved ones left behind. But as we get further and further away from that terrible day, I worry that many people, particularly in their 20’s and those born after the attack, do not grasp the significance of that day.
This is similar to the Americans born decades after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, which drew the United States into World War II.
Both of these events were terrible tragedies that cost countless American lives. Yet they were different in that the deaths at Pearl Harbor were mostly military personnel. On Sept. 11, most of those who died were civilians in the trade center.
While Ground Zero has rightfully become the focus of this country’s outpouring, we should not forget the Pentagon and Shanksville. We should all walk the pastures in Pennsylvania, or sit on one of the benches dedicated to the victims of the Pentagon. And we should remember their sacrifices.
As Americans we cannot let these people disappear in the shadows in a similar manner as those Americans who died in the Philippines on Dec. 8, 1941. The 187 victims at the Pentagon and 44 people aboard Flight 93 should not disappear from American history.
The families of those victims grieved as deeply as those in New York. These victims, just like those in New York, were fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, uncles and aunts. More importantly, they were Americans.
After Dec. 7, 1941 and Sept. 11, 2001, it seems that political divisions in this country disappeared for a period of time. In 1941 the president was a Democrat, and in 2001, a Republican. We were Americans not Republicans or Democrats, something that we seem to have forgotten. The Song by Alan Jackson, “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” should best state our attitude as Americans following Sept. 11.
Whatever we do as Americans we must ensure that all who died on September 11, 2001 are not forgotten. Remember the Flag that was flying over the World Trade Center and the Pentagon represented the same, the United States of America and all of its people.
William Getzfred, CDR USN (RET)