That’s what we’ve been saying for 21 years. Over time, the meaning has changed. Everything else has too.
I don’t want to project for everyone else, so I’ll share what I personally remember 21 years ago. I’m sure a lot of you older folks recall some of these same things.
Summer 2001 was a slow news year. Up until and including 9/10/01, the biggest news story was that shark attacks were so rampant the media dubbed it “The Summer of the Shark.” There’s even a Wikipedia article you whippersnappers can look up if you don’t believe me. The reality is that shark attacks weren’t particularly surging that summer. But hysteria was good for ratings. Again, it was a slow news year.
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a slow news year since.
Personally, 2001 was a good year for me. I had just moved back to New York City after a 26-year hiatus (my family moved away from NYC shortly after I was born). I was young and reconnecting with a bunch of college friends. NYC is a good place for that. Literally everyone knows about 30 people that have moved there. Your friends circle is good to go even before you get into town.
I didn’t lose anyone on 9/11. I saw it all unfold from my window in Queens. I worked in Lower Manhattan. Close enough that my office neighborhood was blocked off for the week. Far enough away that I didn’t have any health issues related to the month-long fire burning at Ground Zero.
Other than the spectacle of the towers coming down, I have two distinct memories from that week:
First, American flags were everywhere throughout the five boroughs. Even in neighborhoods you wouldn’t expect to see outward signs of patriotism. Flag waving was a show of gentle and compassionate solidarity. It wasn’t about politics. Everyone was on the same side.
That didn’t last more than two months.
Second, I remember everyone wanted to help out. Volunteering at Ground Zero was hard to gain access to. The next best thing was to donate blood.
I wasn’t the only one with that idea.
I drove to three hospitals. I waited in line for two hours and I still didn’t get to give blood. That’s how many donors showed up throughout the city.
I eventually donated a few weeks later and kept going back for 15 years. Because of moves and life events that came up, I eventually fell out of the blood donating habit. So did everyone else.
So I remember September of 2001 as being a time of charity, compassionate citizenship, and togetherness.
When I hear “never forget” that’s what I want to recall. The togetherness. Not the politics.
I’ve decided to take up blood donating again. I’ve posted some local blood drives for anyone else inclined to do so.
Otherwise, I hope you’re able to “never forget” where you were on 9/11. Not physically.