Relating to 9/11

  • Published
  • By Dr. Robert W. Allen
  • 62nd Airlift Wing, historian
We have just observed the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, as well as the heroic and fatal struggle by the passengers on Flight 93 against the hijackers of their aircraft.

In some ways, it seems like just another piece of bad news that happened somewhere else many years ago. So, how do we "connect" with the shocking impact and long-term ripple effect of those disastrous attacks by Al Qaida hijackers over a decade ago?

Let's make 9/11 personal by imagining our own loved ones as victims in the devastation of crashed airplanes and destroyed buildings. Another way to bring 9/11 closer to you is to project the crash site at the WTC or Pentagon onto your home town. You can also visit the sites themselves to learn more and get a stronger sense of the human tragedy there.

Visiting the WTC site in the summer of 2002 hit me in a personal way with the overwhelming sad sense of loss on 9/11.

A makeshift memorial area had developed around the small St. Paul's Chapel across the street from the WTC. The metal grill fence around the building was festooned with notes expressing people's feelings, boards displaying badges from police and fire departments around the country, pictures of missing attack victims and even some bouquets of flowers. Visitors were standing in front of the displays, discussing them and pointing out mementos from towns or people that they knew.

It was obvious that the site was "special," when conversations died down to whispers as visitors walked up the ramp to the temporary observation platform overlooking the WTC site. People walked around slowly and quietly, just staring at the huge hole in the face of America's largest city. Debris from the collapsed office towers had been cleared away, leaving a space approximately four by two city blocks in size and several stories deep. I felt that there was also a little hole in my heart as well; a small scar remains today.

On Sept. 11, and every other day, let us renew our commitment to do all that we can to prevent our enemies from gouging another hole in the heart of America.