When watching television during the days leading up to Saturday’s 20-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, one can’t help but be overwhelmed by the many different angles on which this day of remembrance has focused.
First, there’s the obvious fact that terrorists wanted to send America a message and to do it by hitting our nerve centers — a major financial hub, the backbone of our nation’s defense and possibly other landmarks that were on the list.
Then there are questions about the World Trade Center’s construction, how the buildings that were hit were designed and how they were susceptible to failure.
And then of course, there are the stories of human tragedies — how people in airplanes died on impact as did the people in the path of those planes. How office workers trapped in the World Trade Center above the burning floors were unable to go down the stairs in Tower One. The stairs were taken out when the plane hit the building dead center. The more than 1,000 trapped there were faced with the decision to wait to die by burning or to take control of their destiny by jumping to their deaths. The same scenario played out later in Tower 2.
At the same time, there’s the focus on how those who could have been killed, against all odds, were able to find their way out of burning buildings and later were reunited with families. There are the stories about the heroes — the firefighters and police officers, as well as office workers who gave their lives to assist others at the scene.
And then of course there are the heroes on Flight 93, the airplane that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The stories about the telephone calls to family members and the passengers’ decision to gain control over their hijacked plane — knowing they were averting disaster at a national landmark but that their lives would be sacrificed in exchange.
Then there’s the ongoing terror alerts, the increased urgency to keep a watchful eye out for anything suspicious, since intelligence information points to a resurgence in activity by known terrorist groups.
While we remain watchful because there are those who detest the American way of life and will do what they can to rob us of our freedoms, we also will spend Saturday reflecting on the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and what it has meant to our country.
For many, it will be a day to link not only what it means to be an American but will be a day to reach out with their neighbors, such as in Clinton, where a remembrance ceremony will take place at the Freedom Trees site at 8:30 a.m. Saturday.
It is through such shared introspection, song and prayer that many will find solace and guidance – not only as we look at the events of 20 years ago but also to our future – as we seek to steel ourselves, and yet, live in peace.