In My Opinion
Why do we forget?
How tragically ironic that, as the commemoration approached earlier this week of the most-deadly terror attack on America soil, we were witness on our media screens to eerily similar-appearing devastation in the Bahamas.
Not that the two events shared the same evil cause; one was intentional. On Sept. 11, 2001, Islamic religious extremist hijackers on a suicide mission flew two passenger airliners into the World Trade Center towers in New York City, one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a third into a field in Pennsylvania, causing 3,000 deaths and more than 6,000 injuries to American citizens. The other equally horrible event was caused in just the past week by Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 weather monster that has resulted in a still-rising death count and more than 70,000 innocent people without shelter, food, and medicine.
Both events are tragedies, however, and share equal measures of pain, heartache and loss. Both events, too, are measures of our spirit and resilience as Americans and, hopefully, of our capacity for empathy and compassion toward all the world’s people.
Dorian will be remembered as the slowest, strongest hurricane to ever hit the Bahamas. It was the first Category 5 storm to ever make landfall on Grand Bahama Island, with winds of up to 185 miles per hour and then stalling for more than 30 hours, leaving the island paradise in a state of destruction. It’s estimated that more than 76,000 people are in need of housing, food and medical care. And even though the current death toll is presently just over 40 lives, officials warn that as they continue to struggle to reach some of the flood-hit areas, the death toll could reach into the hundreds, perhaps even the thousands.
Government and charitable agencies are providing desperately needed relief, including cruise ships loaded with supplies and volunteers to aid those in the devastation. Five U.S. Coast Guard helicopters continue to run shuttles, and British naval personnel from RFA Mounts Bay also have joined the rescue effort.
“Abaco has always been our home. Now there’s nothing here – no work, no money, nothing to keep us here,” one homeless mother said as she and her two young sons waited in line to board a cruise ship bound for Nassau.
From the aerial photos of the devastation, the first conclusion is that it will take years before much of the island is habitable again due to so many cars, steel containers and houses piled up like firewood.
“The destruction could cost hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars to repair,” Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest said.
After beating the islands for more than 36 hours, the storm moved slowly toward Florida where residents were bracing for its terror and officials were calling on residents to board up and leave the coastline for higher ground. Though the storm moved north, losing some of its power and leaving some communities with less damage than expected, tornadoes spawned by the massive storm still wreaked havoc and destruction. Will it ever be forgotten for the hundreds of thousands impacted by this massive storm and its devastation?
Even though lives and property were lost, most residents had time to prepare, to get out and avoid the massive storm. Storms like Dorian are something that we learn to live with – and even expect – as we look to the experts who predict the weather each day.
But as we look back on the September tragedy of 18 years ago, I’m not sure that any American living then will ever get over the shock or be prepared for anything similar to the visual image of planes flying into two skyscraper office buildings filled with people just working to provide for their families or into the Pentagon where people were working as they do every day to defend our nation. The fourth hijacked plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field before hitting another target, thanks to the heroic efforts of passenger-martyrs who confronted the hijackers.
After the mayhem of terror was done, almost 3,000 people lost their lives and another 6,000 were injured, bringing havoc, shock and sadness to a nation that didn’t have the time to prepare, board up or get out of the way of this deadly attack. For days, weeks and months, Americans and people around the world watched as rescuers searched the remains of what was left, looking for survivors of this terrible terrorist attack on our nation, a day that we must never forget.
Yesterday was the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedy, when all Americans hopefully took the time to reflect on the tremendous loss of lives and the men and women rescuers who risked their lives to save many during the attack – some of whom continue to die early deaths due to the exposure from the massive piles of rubble left as the towers came down.
“One of the worst days in America’s history saw some of the bravest acts in Americans’ history,” former President George W. Bush said in a 2008 speech at the site of the Twin Towers attack. “We’ll always honor the heroes of 9/11. And here, at this hallowed place, we pledge that we will never forget their sacrifice. As we look back on this terrible tragedy, which served as a test of our American spirit and resilience, we should always set aside some time to reflect and remember the many that were lost and those who risked their lives to save others.”
“The attacks of September 11 were intended to break our spirit,” former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani said. “Instead, we have emerged stronger and more unified. We feel a renewed devotion to the principles of political economic and religious freedom, the rule of law and respect for human life. We are more determined than ever to live our lives in freedom.”
I believed those words then. I hope they still ring true in America today, although I’m beginning to have my doubts. A recent Rasmussen Report indicates that 41 percent of American adults believe many people have forgotten or take for granted the impact of the 9/11 attacks. For those impacted by Dorian, they won’t forget but, for those who weren’t directly impacted, the tendency is to forget and go on with their lives once the storm abates and the television new coverage of the devastation is over.
After Sept. 11, 2001, Americans mourned and demonstrated their patriotism by flying flags at their homes and businesses. Others wore shirts and pins with flags and slogans reminding us of our resolve. Communities across the country held vigils and ceremonies to honor those who were lost during the attack, showing that the country was bound by a feeling of unity as it came together against the single deadliest terrorist attack in human history ever perpetrated on our soil.
Rev. Billy Graham implored his listeners “not to implode and disintegrate emotionally and spiritually as a people and a nation,” but to “choose to become stronger through the struggle to rebuild on a solid foundation.”
Yet, 18 years later, we’re still at war. And even though a deadly attack from abroad cannot be ruled out, America’s newest and greatest threat comes from the power of online predators, the use of social media and the political polarization that exists.
The patriotism we felt in the days and months after 9/11 has faded like the weather predictions of yesterday, allowing so many of us to forget what happened 18 years ago. And, in a few months, unless we were directly affected by Hurricane Dorian, our memory of and compassion for the people of the Bahamas will fade, too.
But the tragedy of 9/11 should stand as a constant reminder of the terrorists who still threaten our country and the importance of coming together as one nation, to solve some of the big issues that threaten our way of life. That’s how we’ve always seen the free world come together to ease the pain – like what is now being felt by our neighbors in the Bahamas.
Let’s keep the attack of 9/11 and the victims of Dorian in our thoughts and prayers this week, because we should never forget the seriousness of the attack on our nation and our way of life – and the devastation that a major storm can have on so many.
Fred Jacobs, CEO,
J-Ad Graphics Inc.