Never Forget, Never Forgive… 21 years and a few days later

The past couple of years, I haven’t really posted anything public regarding the anniversary of 9/11. Part of the reason is being cancelled by social media. I certainly think about the anniversary every year, but have lacked the time or motivation to actually post here at the blog. I’m not much into current events commentary these days. The reason I write this now is because of a post from another blogger I follow.

Tamara Keel, at “View from the Porch” posted on 9/11/22 about being “…done with that.” I sort of get it, but wasn’t quite feeling it. Now, to be clear, I’ve briefly met Tam, and respect and enjoy her writing and photography. But something did rub me the wrong way about the post. And it’s not so much a critique of her writing, but more of a self reflection on my own lack of motivation.

The next day, she wrote of how a reader took offense at her post. No, it wasn’t me… but it did make me think.

I am a little sad that I no longer have the motivation to post something every year. I was, after all, on duty that day. Albeit on the other side of the country and in a barely nascent career. But it was nonetheless a defining moment of my life.

I think what bothered me about my lack of motivation to post is that the slogan of “never forget, never forgive” is central to understanding and remembering the sacrifice of those who ran toward danger rather than away from it. As has been said, those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

I’ve been to Pearl Harbor. I have dived Truk Lagoon and have seen some of the last visages of that conflict. I’ve also been briefly inside a German U-Boat lying sunken off the coast of Rhode Island, a watery grave that serves as testament to the courage of men in difficult times and the cruel finality and futility of war. I’ve been to NYC many times, but never to the actual site. I have, however, been to a hayfield in the middle of nowhere in PA.

Seeing these places, perhaps glimpsing the “why” on a visceral level, is important. Important for us, for our kids, and for our future. Once the wrecks have rusted away and memories fade, all that remains are graves and monuments. Men and women die every day. Trust me, I know. I’m a fucking paramedic. I’ve borne witness to more death than I care to think about, of all ages and creeds. But those that died doing something, we should remember them. Honor them. If we don’t, how can we expect future generations to? There are young adults now that weren’t even alive when 9/11 happened. How can we expect them to understand its significance if we don’t remember it?

Here is what I know of 9/11. As a country, as a culture, as an ideal, we were attacked. We fought back. And that spirit is what drives us ever forward. Always fight back. That is something that I will teach my kids. To defend their way of life, their beliefs. Don’t start a fight, but by God, if you are offered violence, respond in kind. That’s the only thing some people understand. Not terribly sophisticated, but a vital lesson that I learned the hard way a long time ago.

We’ve done that as a nation. Hell, that’s how we became a nation. By happenstance, I was in our nation’s capital the day that news broke that we had finally gotten OBL. I fear we have lost our way in the years since, and I don’t care how you vote. I can’t presume, or even pretend, to really understand the feelings of some of the military or Gold Star Families that watched our abrupt withdrawal from Afghanistan. But I share their frustration.

So I’ll end with this… I haven’t forgotten. Probably never will, even at the point that my brain becomes addled with dementia. Whether it’s Apr 19th, Dec 7th, or Sept 11th, remember not only that we fought back, but also why.

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