Today, Friday, marks the 19th anniversary of the most horrific terrorist attack on American soil.
On that September morning, 2,996 people lost their lives and more than 6,000 were injured. A day that dawned with crisp, clear blue skies quickly became filled with unimaginable tragedy. It showed us the worst in humankind. Had we not, at that time, evolved beyond using people and planes as bombs? It also showed us the best of human nature as strangers helped one another as much as possible seek safety and shelter.
In Greenwich that Tuesday morning, it was quiet after the attacks. With so many neighbors and friends working in New York City, we were transfixed before our television screens, watching the events unfold. Traffic into the City was non-existent. The normal noise from I-95 was replaced with a steady stream of sirens and military helicopters headed in the direction of city.
Thirty-four people with ties to Greenwich died that day. Thirty-four people did not return to their loved ones. Wives lost husbands, mothers lost sons, sisters’ brothers, sons’ fathers and fathers lost daughters. Their losses cannot be replaced; they left our entire community mourning and grasping to comprehend the enormity of what happened.
Friday morning, beginning at 8:40 a.m. there will be a gathering at the September 11 Memorial in Cos Cob Park. Bells and cannon fire will mark the times of the significant event that occurred that morning, concluding at 10:28 a.m. when the North Tower fell. In the evening there will be a gathering at the Glenville Fire House. Both request face coverings and social distancing.
Efforts to build the memorial in Cos Cob Park to those lost began soon after the attacks, when a small group of family members and friends came together because they wanted a place where they could remember those who died. For many they do not have a gravestone. The memorial would be a place for quiet reflection, remembrance and spirituality.
When the memorial was officially unveiled, given to the town and opened for all to visit, it was an opportunity to celebrate completion of the memorial and to thank the thousands of our neighbors who contributed financially to its success. It was also an opportunity to say to the families that we will not forget.
We need to do more than “not forget.” We need to teach. Four years ago, a radio station in Oklahoma posted on social media that this is the first year that middle school students in their schools are learning about September 11 as an historical event. They were not alive when it occurred. We are impressed that a school district in Oklahoma is doing this.
If we do not actively teach about September 11, then its history, meaning and loss will begin to fade in importance. In a community where 34 people with ties to it died, and a memorial stands in their honor, we should actively teach about the terrorist attacks, and every student should visit Cos Cob Park to understand how directly it affected our community.
As we come together once more as a community. Let us stand quietly and reverently before the memorial. Let us bow our heads as each name of the 34 victims is read aloud and listen as a bell is rung. Let us comfort those who still mourn. Let us lay a flower at the memorial in honor of all who perished. Let us not forget what happened on that fateful September 11, 2001.
Washington Irving wrote: “There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief… and of unspeakable love.”