Updated: Sep 12, 2021
Today is September 11, 2020. Today is 19 years since the attacks on 9/11 by terrorist here in the United States. If you look on social media you will see picture after picture of the Twin Towers in some form of remembrance. With each share there is some testimony to "Not Forgetting" and even the occasional recounting of where "I was" when the "world changed." I myself have shared many times the story of being awaken by my mother at six o'clock in the morning asking me if I was alright and my initial confusion by the call. This is what we do year in and year out until it all fades into a distant "you remember when (insert event) happened?" memory. Since 9/11 is under 20 years old it is still a fresh memory for many of us alive today. That's the interesting thing about remembering these events it must be fresh to. well, remember it.
The thing is this morning I didn't remember today was Sept 11th which I am suppose to remember. How did I forget to remember an event that would put me on the front lines of the Iraq war (03) and the Afghanistan war (2011)? How could I not remember the catalyst that would end in the deaths of many men and women in uniform including my brothers in arms MSgt Auchman (Iraq 04) and Spc Poulin (Afg 2011)? I mean those two guys are the very reason I now have 3 books, do personal growth workshops and try to help people be better each and every day. Why didn't I remember? The answer starts with a picture so let me start there.
I woke up this morning knowing that the sky over the water would be different than normal days. Actually, I knew it would be downright scary. The picture you see here is from the boat dock in Manchester, Washington looking towards Seattle. On a normal day the whole city can be seen across the water. The Space Needle stands tall and invites me to take it's picture which I usually oblige. In fact, one of my favorite sunrise pictures is when the sun is coming up behind or near Seattle. For context let me show you what it looks like on a regular sunny day. (for the record today's forecast was clear, 76 degrees and sunny. The following picture would be normal for that forecast.)
This is Seattle on a regular "going to be nice" sunny day at sunrise. As you can see there is a stark difference in the two images besides the fact I'm standing about 50 yards left or right of the spots were the pictures were taken. I've gotten up many times to take pictures like the clear one but this time I got up for a different reason to take the above picture which is why I didn't remember today was September 11th. The reason I was out to take the picture is because Washington, like California and Oregon, is on fire right now. The reason you can't see Seattle in the first picture is because the smoke from all the fires has covered Western Washington. This is what had my attention this morning. It wasn't til a friend of mines starting talking about 9/11 that I realized what the day was and it brought me to this question. How could I forget 9/11? As I thought about that question I came to this thought which is the purpose of the blog. So let me get to it.
We aren't suppose to forget the tragedies that happened in the past. Why? Because we want to remember what we do, have done or have had done against us so that we don't repeat it. We weren't suppose to forget the Civil War yet we are flirting with having another one. We weren't suppose to forget the Vietnam War and all the men (and women) lost to a place we shouldn't have been yet we are still sitting in Iraq/Afghanistan after decades of occupation by my country. We weren't suppose to forget the attacks on Pearl Harbor and what it meant to the pride of a country to lose so much so quickly. We weren't suppose to forget the dropping of 2 Atomic bombs that decimated two cities and killed or wounded 100's of thousands of people. We weren't suppose to forget the Civil Rights movement and the major riots of the that era. We weren't suppose to forget the attacks by homegrown terrorist on our own soil. We weren't but we did. We do until it is in our face again then we "remember" and then we show we care. But do we really? I asked myself that as I continued my journey taking pictures of the ominous sky and thinking about the comparison of when time was better. Like these two pictures one from today and one from before. It's an amazing contrast when you see them side by side.
The thing is in a few weeks the fires here will be a distant memory. We will have moved on to the next thing. No one can breathe in these states filled with heavy smoke which is the talk of the town. You see the next thing comes up and the current major event becomes a distant memory that people talk about because they were there or effected by it. As those numbers of people affected fade away so does the significance of the events. For instance, I'm from Los Angeles where in 1992 the city exploded after the Not Guilty ruling for the officers filmed beating Rodney King. After the riots the black community and the city worked hard to build strength, unity and bridge the gap between the police/judicial system and the people of the city. It all sounded good but in the end very little changed and as years went by the LA Riots became another footnote like the Watts Riots had been by the time LA started to burn. Which brings me back to 9/11.
Today, I was worried about fires. I was worried about friends and family all down the west coast who may lose all their stuff to a fire, a pandemic, some idiot with a gun or something else crazy as 2020 is full of the crazy. I was not thinking about two planes crashing into two buildings on that bright blue morning in New York. It's hard to think of the day that saw a nation come together to heal one another during a time when the same nation is more divided than ever before. It's hard to remember the feeling of patriotism to defy those who would oppress and/or attack us when we stand in the midst of nearly 200k people dead from a pandemic, racial and economical tension all over country and the world, abuses of power by our government and our peace keepers, people suffering from money woes, depression, anxiety, rage and the simple "blahs" too. How can we "remember" what happened nearly 20 years ago when we can barely remember what happened last year? As I'm thinking of this I drove to another favorite spot of mine to see the sunrise but, like I said, I was here to see the world through the smoke.
For you this picture may just be a nice shot. You may notice the sun over the dock and realize that it's being muted by all the smoke in the air. You may wonder how nice it looks during a normal sunny morning. For me this is a place I have stood countless early morning listening to the birds wake up for the day. I have had many contemplative moments standing right were I took the picture from and I have shared some great thoughts with images from this spot. As I stood bouncing back and forth from the reality of today and the memory of the 9/11 tragedy I start to wonder when this place (the dock) became something I just "did?" The answer is, I don't know. I don't know when it just became a place I go to. I don't know when it became one of the "stops" on the journey to chase the sun. It just happens over time. Other things grab our attention. Different things become the priority and before long the thing that once mattered is almost forgotten. And that is what happened for 9/11 this year. When the country is burning down all around us it is hard to find time to recharge my "patriot" banner. We forget because the view changes and the priority changes. We forget because the thing that enraged us or scared is either gone, replaced or we realize it wasn't that scary to begin with. The biggest thing is that just like the days, weeks and months after 9/11 we slowly find ourselves settling back to normal where what happened is spoken in a way of story telling rather than remembering. In the next couple weeks i'll be standing at the spot again taking picture of a sunrise and I'll most likely not think of today's shot.
It'll look something like this shot here. And while I'm taking my shots and short videos I'll share it with friends because the "moment" is too beautiful not to share. Maybe the first time I do it I'll remember how smokey the view was but with each passing visit to this spot I will push the smokey sky to the back ground further and further until I forget. That brings to one last point.
Today I remember the men and women (and children) who died during the attacks on 9/11. I remember the innocents of civilians killed by a terrorist organization. I remember the men and women who have died in wars or simply serving their country since that day. I remember the shakiness of my mother's voice wondering if I am okay and all the voices of the moms/dads who wondered the same for their military sons/daughters over the last 19 years. I remember the fear of the Muslims in this country who in one morning became the enemy of a country's pride and in the aftermath became, in some cases, protected by the countries love. I remember the growth in so many as we learned about one another where we would not have in the past. I remember the community defying rhetoric and hate to find logic and love to heal our collective wounds. I remember why it hurt to see the planes crash and see the panic of all those people while also seeing the bravery of all those first responders and civilians alike who ran into the danger to save people they didn't know from a threat they didn't understand. I remember!
I will end with this last thought. Our history both in the United States and all over the globe is littered with things we aren't suppose to forget. Too many lessons for the average person to remember. Too many memes and quick "shares" ready for us to show our support for a cause without having to actually do anything has left our memories, well, hollow. The events are important but the lessons are more important. When we stop and see what we learned and how we grew then we can stop having to "re-learn" the lessons that were being taught. Maybe tomorrow or the next day or the next I'll forget again but today may we remember what we learned the last time we were hurting.