12 years later, remembering 9/11: The case for commemoration
On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols committed a grievous act of terror, the devastating bombing of a government building in Oklahoma City. One hundred sixty eight people were killed and many more were injured. I hadn’t even heard about this bombing until the summer of 2010 when I went to the memorial in Oklahoma City. On Sept. 11, 2001, an even more devastating terrorist attack occurred in three locations throughout the United States—at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., in a field in Pennsylvania and most notably at the World Trade Center in New York City. We as a country cannot get to the point where the only time people find out about these attacks on American soil is when we visit their memorials.
This year, there was no commemoration whatsoever for the Sept. 11 attacks at Wash. U. No vigil, no moment of silence, nothing. As a freshman, maybe my expectations were a little too high, having been used to grand ceremonies and long presentations on 9/11. However, I am not asking for supreme pomp and circumstance, merely a reminder that on this day, thousands of civilians and first responders lost their lives to senseless hate and terror. When a fellow student turns to me in class asking for the date and upon hearing that it is Sept. 11 says, “Holy crap! I completely forgot,” clearly something is very wrong.
Some will claim that the way the University handled Sept. 11 isn’t that pressing of an issue, arguing, “nobody remembers Pearl Harbor.” However, humor me with a small comparison of the two events. The attack on Pearl Harbor was on Dec. 7, 1941, 72 years ago. The Sept. 11 attacks were a mere 12 years ago. Twelve years! Surely people still feel the effects of the Sept. 11 attacks, and most if not all of the students and faculty at Washington University remember exactly where they were at the time of the attacks. Unfortunately, most of us were not alive at the time of Pearl Harbor.
I do not mean to say, however, that we should completely forget about Pearl Harbor because we were not alive at the time. Just that Sept. 11 is a much more recent event in peoples’ minds than Pearl Harbor. Dec. 7 will always be “a date which will live in infamy” and the attack is always commemorated on the newscast that day.
I propose a few simple and cost-effective remembrance plans for the University so that next year, this insult will not occur again. First, the University should use the tornado sirens or some other type of siren to create a moment of silence. If having sirens for when the planes crashed into the Pentagon, the field and the two towers, as well as when the towers fell, sounds too complicated, it might be best to have just one siren for all three attacks at around 10 a.m., which is roughly when all three attacks occurred. Another reasonable solution is to have an American flag on Brookings Quadrangle with flowers and wreaths around it, with all the flags around the University flying at half-mast.
Yes, 12 years is a long time, but not long enough to have forgotten about an event whose effect on the country is still being felt every day in airports and high-profile areas. At a university with so much of its student body hailing from the northeast, it is honestly shameful that nothing was done. Let’s not hasten the breakdown of American memories. Let’s ensure that the first time someone hears about Sept. 11 won’t be when they’re physically at Ground Zero.