Where were you at 5:46 a.m. 18 years ago today?
And at 6:03 a.m. that day, what, exactly, were you doing?
Most of you reading this will be able to answer those questions without hesitation. At 5:46 a.m. Pacific Time on 9/11/01, five hijackers flew American Airlines Flight 11 into the northern side of 1 WTC — the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. Then, 17 minutes later, five hijackers crashed United Airlines Flight 175 into the southern side of 2 WTC.
You remember these things because they register as one of the greatest tragedies not just in your life, but in the history of our nation. Starting with those orchestrated attacks, terrorism struck home as it had never struck before.
And now, 18 years later, we should be mindful that as indelibly etched in our memories as that day will be forever, it is merely a story passed down to millions of Americans who were not alive at the time. More than a quarter of all Idahoans weren’t around back then, which suggests that the rest of us have an important civic responsibility to pass along.
We vowed then never to forget. So how can we expect millions to remember what they didn’t even experience?
Well, we teach them. As parents, grandparents, friends, neighbors, even lukewarm acquaintances, we take the time to share with them how the unprecedented act of terrorism burned part of us completely to the ground before galvanizing us and in many ways making us stronger. We show them the photos that even now bring searing pain. We take them back as best we can so they can at least begin to understand how that day changed the world forever.
Maybe even more importantly, through these discussions and interactions perhaps we can dust off the great American spirit that pulled the most disparate among us together. In the weeks and months after 9/11, it mattered little what color you were, which political party you favored or which team you rooted for most vigorously. In the aftermath of that devastating day, a Phoenix arose: from the World Trade Center ashes, states united. Previous adversaries joined hands not just so this nation could survive, but again thrive.
That’s the lesson that we should not just pass along to the youngsters, but to remember well ourselves.