We Must Keep Our Promise Not To Forget 9/11

September 11 Ground Zero Getty Images/Alex Fuchs

James Merse Freelance Writer
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The question is both tragic and cliché – where were you on when the 9/11 attacks happened?

I was in fourth grade at Upper Greenwood Lake Elementary School in Hewitt, NJ. Without warning, the teachers congregated in the hallways, whispering, with concerned looks on their faces. It was hours before I actually knew what was going on.

Around 1 o’clock in the afternoon the loudspeaker next to the clock buzzed into the back-wing classroom I sat in, drawing designs on the paper bag covering my textbook. I was summoned to the main office, and told to bring my belongings – I knew I was going home, and I knew something was not right.

That tragedy of course was the mass murder of over 3,000 Americans when Islamist terrorists turned domestic flights into kamikaze bombs – one into each of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, and one into the Pentagon.

One didn’t make it to its intended target, likely the White House, due to a band of brave Americans that fought back and drove United Airlines Flight 93 (that was scheduled to fly Newark to San Francisco) into field in Shanksville, PA.

Certain memories of that day are blurry, it was 16 years ago and I was just nine years old, relying on the quiet violence on the muted television replays of the events and the details my parents would fill in.

My situation requires me to never forget the truth of that day. In the hours that followed the initial attacks, my father let us know he would be heading into lower Manhattan to assist with the recovery efforts. He is an NYC Local 15 Operating Engineer, and holds a few more licenses for heavy equipment than your average blue-collar worker — it’s what he loves. None of us were surprised when he said he was going to the pile.

The circumstances were heinous, but my father knew he had a skillset that was necessary and the NYC credentials that were needed to operate the machines. He had no choice, but even if he did, his choice wouldn’t change.

I’m not sure how my father found the words to tell a nine-year-old why he smelled of smoky chalk and burnt human hair. I’m not sure how he found the courage to tell me about the body he uncovered.

I will never forget one detail of his recount of his time spent on the pile; he got a piece of glass or metal in his eye and had to ride up to a midtown hospital, alongside an FDNY firefighter and an NYPD officer, both with other minor injuries. He told me that people were banging on the ambulance, cheering, thanking and hailing them as heroes, but my father didn’t feel like a hero compared to the men next to him, compared to the woman driving the ambulance.

The truth is, my dad is a hero. Every single person that entered the unknown that day is a hero. Some heroes risked or gave their lives to save others, and others put their lives on hold to do what was necessary.

Hailing our American heroes isn’t why I tell my 9/11 story any chance I can – there’s a more important reason. If I don’t tell my story, and you don’t tell yours, the truth will slowly fade into history and details will slip away as years go on.

We’ve already witnessed history being censored by the media. The very real truth that Muslims were cheering on the rooftops in Jersey City has turned into a myth and been associated with racism and bigotry despite various newscasts and eyewitness accounts.

Fear of being label an “Islamaphobe” or racist cannot stop us from telling the truth about what happened that day. Islamist terrorists hijacked our planes and flew them into our buildings and murdered our people. There is no nice way to say that, there is nothing politically correct about it.

ACT for America founder Brigitte Gabriel reminded us in a recent article with Breitbart of the patriotism the followed the events of 9/11 back in 2001, and points at the sad truth that the organization had to cancel 67 rallies across the country that would have honored the victims, survivors and heroes of those attacks.

This is the sad reality of 16 years after the deadliest terror attacks on American soil, and it must end here.

I lived about 35 miles from the attacks, and witnessed the smoke from the top of Skyline Drive. Jeremy Glick, a United 93 hero, was from my hometown. Many of the friends I have made in the town I live now have multiple connections to the attacks.

Whether your story is like mine or my friends that involves a direct relationship with the horrors of that day, or you simply witnessed the violence, the despair and the greatest comeback of our time, it’s your duty to tell the story.

If we keep telling our stories, loud and proud, history cannot be manipulated to cover up the fact that Islamist terrorist murdered over 3,000 Americans in a single day.

Gabriel is right, we cannot afford another 9/11 in the name of political correctness, and we can never forget that which we promised we would not.

I promised I wouldn’t forget, I’m keeping that promise, and I’m asking all of you to do the same.

James Merse is a healthcare communications professional from Northern New Jersey and teaches communication courses at community colleges. Follow him on Twitter: @JamesMerse