Never Forget

Reflecting on the Tragedy of September 11 on its 11th Year Anniversary

By Annamarya Scaccia

911I woke up to my mother shaking me.

In distance, behind the haze of sleep, I heard her frantically telling me to get up. That my father called to say one of the towers had fallen.

We rushed to the living room. We turned on Channel 7. We watched as the brick and mortar of the World Trade Center crumbled to the ground, bodies falling and jumping and escaping the destruction. We watched in gasped breath with our hands to our mouths.

“I watched those towers go up and now I watched them go down,” my mother said in dismay.

On September 11, 2001, my family and I were still living in our hometown of Gravesend, a small, historic neighborhood nestled between Bensonhurst, Sheepshead Bay, and Coney Island. We were almost 13 miles away from the tip of Manhattan, where the World Trade Center was located. And after the final piece fell, the close-knit community went outside to find what seemed like a thin layer of soot blanketing the street. There seemed to be a quiet chaos. And while this may be a memory amplified by emotional devastation, it felt as if the tangible devastation from that early morning terrorist attack found its way to our South Brooklyn block.

It felt as if the wreckage of 9/11 was carried to us by the wind.

I could never forget what happened on September 11. Nor could I forget what happened on February 26, 1993, when kindergartens from Gravesend’s Public School 95 were trapped in a World Trade Center elevator for more than five hours after a bomb detonated under the North Tower (I was a 10-year-old P.S. 95 fifth grader at the time).

I could never forget the worry, the fear, and the anger from those two separate—but ultimately connected—events. I could never forget how 9/11 painfully ended what the 1993 bomb attack meant to execute. I could never forget the pain in an old high school friend’s eyes because she lost someone in the 2001 attacks.

I could never forget the people.

When I reflect on 9/11, it is never about the politics or the “attack on freedom.” It’s never about whether or not the tragedy was an inside job. To me, the way in which 9/11 is used in dogmatic debates—much like the way it’s capitalized on with every key chain, gold coin and embroidered flag—diminishes the enormity of what happened. It diminishes the lives lost.

I am incredibly lucky that I did not lose my mother that day. That she did not have to go to work near the Towers after all. That she did not leave the Cortlandt Street train station through its exit leading to the World Trade Center’s lower concourse. I am lucky and grateful.

But many are not. Many have lost the presence of their loved ones on 9/11, and in the subsequent Iraq War andongoing War in Afghanistan and War in North-West Pakistan. Many continue to ache from the grief that comes with loss. Many continue to suffer from the consequences of war.

For me, remembering 9/11 is always about the nearly 3,000 individuals who are no longer with us because of the fallen towers and four hijacked plans: American Airlines Flight 11United Airlines Flight 175American Airlines Flight 77, and United Airlines Flight 93. It’s about those who had no choice when their lives were stolen from them, those who bravely ran headfirst into the flames as first-responders, and those still suffering from health issues related to the attacks. It’s about the astronomical—and often combated—number of casualties in the so-called “War on Terror,” especially the civilians caught on the battlefield that was once their home. It’s about the unnecessary loss of innocence.

Next week, as we near 9/11’s 11th year anniversary to the day, I will remember those lives. And so will Prince George’s County. On September 10, Prince Georgians can pay tribute to those affected by 9/11, as well as the service women and men fighting here and overseas in an intimate recognition ceremony. It will take place 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Prince George’s Plaza Community Center, 6600 Adelphi Road in Hyattsville.

We should also take this time to remember all who have passed from needless violence, be it in war or on our streets. We should remember those that are gone far too soon, and those who have to live with their loss. We should remember that we have the power to change the dynamic.

But, most importantly, we should never forget.

Photo: National September 11 Memorial & Museum’s North Tower Fountain / Wikipedia
Published on Prince George’s Suite – Friday, September 7, 2012

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