I gave the following speech to the CSN student body on 9/10 for our 9-11 memorial service.
7:59 am, the morning of September, 11th, 2001, American Airlines Flight 11 departs from Logan International Airport heading towards Los Angles, 14min late. On board are five hijackers.
8:14am, United Airlines Flight 175, leaves Boston airport bound for LA carrying 51 passengers, nine crewmembers and 5 hijackers.
5 minutes later, a flight attendant on Flight 11, relays via air phone, “The cockpit is not answering, somebody’s stabbed in business class—and I think there’s Mace—that we can’t breathe—I don’t know, I think we’re getting hijacked." She then tells of the stabbings of two flight attendants.
8:42 am, United Airlines Flight 93 takes off with 37 passengers and seven crew members from Newark International Airport for San Francisco, after a 40 minute delay, four hijackers are on board.
About the same time, Flight 175 is hijacked.
8:46 am. Traveling at 490mph, 790 km/h, Flight 11 crashes into the North face of World Trade Center 1, between the 93rd and 99th floor. The people below start to evacuate, the people above were trapped in the building.
Many of those people would jump to their deaths.
8:50 am. Flight 77 is hijacked.
9: 03 am Flight 175 crashes into the south face of World Trade Center 2 at 590 mph.
9:28 am, The four hijackers on board flight 93 storm the cockpit and take over control of the plane.
9:37, Flight 77 crashes into the pentagon.
10:03, Flight 93 crashes outside of Pittsburgh due to passenger revolts against the hijackers.
10:28, The North Tower begins to collapse.
In less than 3 hours, the world as we knew it was changed forever. How many people sitting in this room today can honestly say that on any given weekend, they would have rolled out of our beds by the time our lives were reshaped?
On that particular morning, I was sitting in my second grade class, like any other morning. It was sunny and beautiful and routine. I remember that after the second plane hit the tower, my mom came to school to get me out of class and take me home. I know that I was the first one to leave my school then, and I was pretty thrilled. I had no clue what was going on or what it would mean for the rest of my life, I just cared about missing math class.
I remember that day very clearly, which is pretty good for being so young at the time. However, I feel like we are among the last generation that can recount the events of what happened to us on that Tuesday morning. Where is the line that you cross where people who were alive on that day can’t recount what happened? Does it lie with the freshman? The eighth grade?
Remembrance is really the reason we are here today. 69 years ago, the second most recent attack on American soil took place, the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is unfortunate that if you were to ask a person off of the streets, it would be doubtful that any of them could tell you that Pearl Harbor took place on December 7th.
That attack pulled America into the Second World War, one of the most prevalent conflicts still on the minds of Americans today. Think about this for me; think of all the veterans of WWII that you may know. I know just one, my grandfather. He is a great man, but he is getting up there in age. It is a sad, but true fact of life that one day he will pass on, as will all the members of that great generation who fought or contributed to make our lives free from want and oppression.
After all the soldiers of that war no longer walk this earth with us, when we no longer have faces and stories to tie directly to that part of our history, It makes you wonder how long it will before WWII and the feelings and emotion tied to it are reduced to words in a textbook. Think about any battle you’ve ever read about in history…did reading about it make you feel anything at all? Were you ever inspired by the words left behind in textbooks, like are by anything you can remember in your own life time?
Truth is that there will come a time when all of the great young men and women I’m speaking to today won’t be around anymore. When that time comes…when all we took with us after we left this Earth was the legacy we left behind and move on, I have to wonder, what will our legacies say? About us, our actions, what we did with our lives, our motivations? Will we be reduced to words in our grandchildren’s textbooks? Or will we have inspired, used the tragedy and travesties that have afflicted us and learned from them to build a better world for our progeny.
Reasons like that are why I feel this day should be about so much more than mourning the loss of our heroic rescue workers and those who lost their lives, more than recounting events and actions. I believe that it should be about what all of those things meant. What those police and firefighters and personnel stood for and how they inspired generations.
After my mom picked me up from school nine years ago tomorrow, I remember that my neighbor said one thing that has stuck with me to this day. One simple word.
Such a simplistic word, so rudimentary when compared to its synonyms in the English language, but at the same time, such a perfect fit for those who attacked us.
Nine years ago, a group of men sought out to attack this country, not because of any man, woman, or child. Not because of a declaration of war or hate, but because they despise our way of life, because they have been trained from a young age to hate you and me and every one of us who resembles or abides by western culture. As someone I met this past summer, Marco Rubio, put it, “These terrorists aren't trying to kill us because we offended them. They attack us because they want to impose their view of the world on as many people as they can, and America is standing in their way.” These people wouldn’t hesitate to kill and main anyone of us, and nine years ago, using fear as their sword and innocents as their shield they did not hesitate.
When I was little I loved flying on airplanes. Then after 9/11 for the longest time I was petrified of it. It took me a long time to get over that fear, and once I had I realized why they called it terrorism. Every time I was afraid to fly in my own country, to go back to my home, the terrorists had won a small battle. I’m not afraid anymore, not because our airlines are one hundred percent safe or because it’s been so long, but because I’m not willing to give up part of my peace of mind to monsters who hide behind good people.
Nine years ago, those men sought to bring out the worst in ourselves and to scare us into hiding in our homes and cower. But they failed. They failed bigtime, because we brought out the best in ourselves. We showed each other real American resolve that hadn’t been herd of for decades. Firefights rushed into burning buildings to try to save innocent lives like they do every day, something that is often over looked or forgotten. Police officers went out in full force to protect the public. It is sad really that we all take for granted that you can pull out that phone in your pocket and dial a number, and in minuets men will show up to your house to protect you and your families, not everyone around the world has that blessing.
That day, firefighters from as far as Chicago raced to NYC to help anyway they can. Members of the Army reserve put on their uniforms and ran to ground zero without being ordered to help defend us anyway they could. People lined the streets with bottles of water, masks, blankets, food, handing them out to incoming rescue crews, helping out anyway they could. Strangers helped strangers find lost kids, loved ones, get to safe places. For a time after that tragic day when so many lost their lives, we really remembered what our ‘U’ stood for. United. We felt connected, as one sovereign nation.
If you know someone who lost their lives on September 11th, 2001, I’d like to ask you to please stand up. If you know someone who lost someone close to them please stand. If you knew a rescue worker or a police officer, firefighter, EMS worker, please stand up. If you knew you were worried about someone living in New York, please stand. If you knew someone who worked in those towers that no longer grace the skyline, please stand up. If you know someone standing up, and feel for them, please join them.
Look around you, all people untied by a common event. When we remember 9/11, we shouldn’t focus on the sorrow we felt or the fear, or the hate. We should focus on that feeling of unity, those feelings that everyone in the country, every stranger fells similar to you. That despite all our differences, we were a common people.
A short nine years later and look where we have come, people feel more disjointed and disconnected than ever. When is the last time in your recent memory you can remember that level of fellowship or kindness from a stranger that we saw in NYC nine years ago. Why is it that we only can shine our brightest in the wake of tragedy, while in prosperity we turn a cold shoulder to each other?
The truth is, one day in the future, the Tuesday morning of September 11th, 2001 will just be words printed in a textbook in a classroom. All the feelings and real ties to it will be virtually lost. Knowing that, we shouldn’t be sad. We should remember those true feelings of unity and remember just how tangible our freedoms and privileged lives are. Then use that knowledge to build our country that we all love up to its highest standard. Insure that we leave this world better than we found it in hopes that our children and their children will do the same thing.
Don’t take your time on this Earth for granted, because while some may call this ignorant, I truly believe that right now we are citizens of the greatest society in all of humanity’s history, and we need to use that privilege to do as much good for the world as we can. That’s what 9/11 was about for me: remembering who we are.
So, God bless the victims of the 9/11 tragedy, Gob bless you, and God bless the United States of America and what it stands for. Thank you.
Part Two of "Talking About My Generation" Next Week.