Today is September 11 – the fifteenth anniversary of an event that has arguably given the date more significance around the world than any other day on the calendar, with the possible exception of January 1.
Each year on this day, there are many articles published in reference to the murderous acts of hatred that turned an average morning into a shocking wave of dismay that swept the globe like the mother of all tsunamis. The motives behind these writings ranges from the honorable to the repugnant. Some authors invoke the memory of 9/11 in an appeal to our better angels: courage, faith, hope and love for those whose trust we bear. Others choose, dishonorably, to misuse the power of that memory for self-serving purposes, leveraging fear and misinformation against the common good.
Here’s what I want my few readers to remember today:
- The heroes of 9/11/2001 were people who put themselves in harm’s way so that others might be saved. Most of them were first responders, public servants who ran into the cataclysm while everyone else ran away – because it was their job to do so; because the rest of us trust them to stand between us and danger, and they honored that trust. A few – like the crew and passengers of Flight 93 – were just regular people who refused to stand by and do nothing while evil triumphed. All of them acted, not out of selfishness, but out of love for others greater than the instinct for survival. None of them had any thought of profiting by the suffering erupting all around them.
- 411 first responders died on 9/11/2001. Many who survived the day died later, poisoned by the air they breathed as they worked to save lives. Many more still suffer and are dying slowly today. The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act provides some measure of relief to the surviving heroes and to the bereft families of those who have died.
- The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act went before the Senate in 2010. Not a single member of the so-called “conservative” party voted to pass the bill; the excuse was that the $7.4B total cost of the bill represented irresponsible spending – although the same crowd consistently defends corporate tax breaks, tooth and nail – at an estimated cost of $180B per year.
- It is increasingly apparent that the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq – for which we as a nation are still paying in blood and treasure, and for which thousands of American families have paid with the lives of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, sisters and brothers whose absence is an open wound – had less to do with protecting our nation’s people than with using the horror of 9/11 to muster public support for a multitrillion-dollar stimulus to the portfolios of investors in the military-industrial complex. Few of whom, needless to say, waxed patriotic enough to send their own sons and daughters into harm’s way.
On this day in particular, then, but every day: remember our fallen heroes. Respect their sacrifice by keeping that spirit with which they gave up their lives: courage over fear, caring for others before self, honor in service of the public. Let no one beat the drums of war with their bones. Let them rest in peace, and bless their memory. For those whom they left behind, let us care for them as is fitting, and count the cost of something less sacred.