As I was teaching Sunday School this morning, I looked around the room and saw the faces of an 11, 13, and 14 year old. It hit me that none of these children were alive the day airplanes became weapons and more things were broken than just buildings. Lives were broken, many families were broken, and all hearts were broken.
To these young faces, the significance of this day isn’t as real to them as it is to me and you. They weren’t alive to see the devastation and feel the fear that gripped our hearts that morning as we realized what had taken place.
It’s something they know about, sure. But it’s like me knowing about Pearl Harbor. I know facts and a few details, but I can’t regard September 11 and December 7 the same because I read about one and experienced the other.
Fifteen years ago, I woke up excited. I was a senior in high school, and it was my 17th birthday. We weren’t at school for very long before we started hearing reports of what was happening in New York…then in Washington…then in Pennsylvania. It was so surreal that I remember thinking there had to be a mistake. This doesn’t happen here.
Someone brought in a television and we all huddled around it as they replayed the footage over and over and over. We saw people running and screaming and the smoke that wouldn’t clear. We were scared. Many of us were crying. We may not have personally known people involved, but we felt their pain and shared in their grief…for we were all Americans.
We all went to bed that night different than we woke up that morning. Our hearts were broken. Our strong, seemingly impenetrable nation had been attacked. Lives were taken out of hatred and malice. Innocence was lost. We were changed.
But from the fear and uncertainty came a resolve. A resolve that we would fight for and defend the land that we love. A national pride would sweep the nation and we all would come together to resist those who would seek to destroy us. We returned to asking God to aid us, bless us, and keep us.
….but we’ve forgotten again.
We no longer are proud to be Americans. Instead, we’re ashamed and apologetic because the things our country was founded upon like freedom of expression and religious liberty are now offensive to others.
We no longer seek to bring justice to those who would harm our nation. Instead, we welcome them in with open arms and no questions asked.
We no longer ask for the blessings and prosperity of God. Instead, we want nothing to do with Him and insist others ignore Him as well.
I looked at these faces this morning and realized that they will only know the truth and significance of that day if we tell them. If we continue to ignore it and push it aside as a topic to be overlooked because it makes people uncomfortable, they’ll never know what happened or why it happened or what happened in the days and weeks following 9/11. They’ll know facts and a few details, but it won’t have any significant impact on their lives because we live as though it has no significant impact on ours.
I am so thankful to be an American. I’m thankful for the freedoms and liberties we enjoy. I’m thankful for the ones who have fought to ensure we keep those freedoms. The lives that were lost that day in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania are a part of that. I don’t want their sacrifices to be forgotten or be seen as insignificant.
I want to remember…and I want our children to know what being free can cost. With the high price in mind, we’re less likely to take it for granted.
Don’t let “Never Forget” just be something we say or a trendy hashtag. I know I’ll never forget the fear and sorrow of that day, but I also don’t want to forget how the lives that were lost changed our nation’s landscape and, for a time at least, changed the people’s hearts.
We need that change to be a reality in our land again.