I just spent the weekend fully immersed in the horror that was 9-11-01. I am sure that many of you did the same. The feelings it created in me are so powerful that I actually thought, “Why am I doing this to myself?”
But I know why. I was afraid that I might have forgotten. It didn’t take long for the images to bring me to tears. People spent a lot of time in tears during the days (and weeks) that followed, and I was among them. We all want to forget pain, but is that the right thing to do?
My grandsons don’t get it. To them it’s just another special effects disaster movie. They were only 3 & 5 years old when it happened and were not exposed to most of the details. We simply did not talk about it when they were around. Much of the time we were too numb to discuss it anyway. But now, 10 years later, we need to be sure that the upcoming generation understands this event, the pain it caused, and how it changed the world.
At the start of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, author William Shirer used this quote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Earliest attribution is to the poet and philosopher George Santayana. Of no less importance is the need to remember this new atrocity. Like Pearl Harbor, this was a sneak attack – but Pearl was a military base, not a civilian target. Many of us try to pretend that genuine evil is not real. True evil does exist in our world and we can not afford to forget it.
Yet at the same time we must remember to not lose faith in the fact that good, positive things also exist. Great tragedy brings forth tremendous qualities from many people. During the horrors of what Hitler was doing arose greatness in regular people: Oskar Schindler is the perfect example.
During the period surrounding the World Trade Center attack many rose above who they were to become helpers and heroes to others. One of the anniversary specials focused on the 343 First Responders (firefighters and others) lost when the buildings fell. One of the survivors made a point that we tend to forget. He said we need to remember those who were lost, but perhaps more important – we need to recall that those First Responders saved some 20,000 people through their efforts.
When we pass this sense of horror to our children we must also pass on the reality of our hopes for the future. Teach them that there are more good people, even more great people, than there are evil people. And that the coming together of these people is our only real hope. “All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke
This is the perfect time for us to focus on the things we all have in common, rather than the things we differ about. Our future is ours to create. Teach your children that.