Time has a funny way of getting away from people and with it goes, if not the memory of past events, the feelings they invoked at their moments in history.
One of those events was burned into the minds of a majority of Americans 14 years ago today, when the World Trade Towers were on fire and explosions filled the air … along with the screams of thousands.
Who still remembers the sun setting behind a carved-out Pentagon, and the black spot on the ground that in one second was green and the next charred, hallowed ground in Pennsylvania?
The smoke rolled in the background as the Statue of Liberty still stood watch out to sea in New York’s harbor, ready to greet those who would take refuge, unknowing as the danger crept up behind, from within.
Many of us remember what we were doing that day, how we felt, who we were with and how we reacted.
But how many times a day do you remember now?
The memories when they do come are as clear as if it happened yesterday, but the feelings that we felt that day, and weeks and years later, are left behind, faded like the smoke that burned for days along a forever-changed skyline in New York that eventually dissolved away.
“I’m fearful that we’ve gotten far enough away now, after 14 years, far enough away from 9/11, that too many people have forgotten what happened and what it’s like when it does happen,” former Vice President Dick Cheney ventured to say earlier this summer, according to one news report in New York. “Because there is a danger that next time they will have something deadlier than airline tickets and box cutters when they launch an attack.”
And in a time when a historically black moment for our nation’s majority has become nothing but a lesson in history for the young minority, we fear the second-in-command for the United States that dark day may be right.
America should never become a police state, paralyzed by the fears of “what if” another attack occurred, but neither should she be caught unaware, faced with a future of living in a fear that gripped the nation 14 years ago.
Osama bin Laden, the man behind the attacks on 9-11 and one in New York in 1993, is gone, brought down years after the nation swore he would be gone. No one looms large to take his place and bring another 9-11 down on American soil.
But back then, the majority remember, no one thought anyone was capable of doing what he managed to do, something he had tried for years and, finally, in dingy caves in the Middle East, managed to mastermind.
Since that time of terror, America has seen attacks from without and within, and has fought little battles in places no one would ever think of finding it.
The battle that began 14 years ago continues in small-town America, with citizens who will remain vigilant, who must never forget how it felt on that day, who must remember that what they never thought would happen did, indeed, happen.
The government, we fear, is becoming too comfortable in the years since the military was ramped up in preparation for a War on Terror. Places like Enid, Okla., home to Vance Air Force Base, which trains those who would be the nation’s defenders, should remain important in the minds of those who walk the hallways of the nation’s Capitol.
Do not let our military become too thin, do not let our covert defenses grow lax.
We learn from history, but the problem of fading feelings surrounding historic events should not become an issue that could once again haunt our nation.
So take time today to not only remember what happened 14 years ago, but the way you felt when it happened. Remember the fear, the anger, the tears and the pride of country as Americans stood together.
Take those feelings with you in the days ahead so that we remain vigilant when it comes to the defenses of this nation. Whether here in Oklahoma or in the nation’s capital, Americans watching out for each other will be the shining legacy of this great country.