Nine Years Later...
It is, once again, the 11th day of September. It is, once again, a clear crisp sunny September day in the New York area. And, once again, just after 8:40 this morning, in a small park a short distance from Ground Zero, they will begin the reading of the names. All of them. Thousands of them, one after the other.
They will pause at 8:46 a.m. for a moment of silence, to reflect on that moment, that clear crisp sunny September day, that September 11th, when a plane piloted by murderous fanatics slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
The names will be read again from 8:47 a.m. until 9:03 a.m., when there will be another moment of silence, for the moment when the second plane hit the South Tower. They will be read again until 9:59 a.m., when another moment of silence will mark that moment, nine years ago, when the South Tower fell.
They will be read again until 10:29 a.m., when another moment of silence will mark that moment, nine years ago, when the North Tower fell.
And the reading of the names will pick up and continue until all the names, nearly 3,000 of them, have been read.
It is a powerful ceremony, this annual gathering of the families of those lost. It is somber, it is poignant, it is heartwrenchingly painful even now, nine years later.
Nine years. Nine long painful years. Nine years without those responsible being brought to justice. Nine years.
And this year, it will be harder for all of us in the New York region and for all of us in this nation than it has been in the past. For this year, there are other fanatics determined to use this day for their own ends. No fewer than six groups have demonstration permits to air their own grievances.
A demented preacher from Florida is still wavering on whether to plunge our troops and our citizens abroad into danger by burning the holy book of a religion he disagrees with. All of the good will and national unity that we hoped might be the true enduring effect of 9/11 is gone. We have somehow let it slip away.
How did we go so wrong? How have we come to ignore all of the things that make this nation so wonderful, so unique -- the freedoms, the tolerance -- and embrace such hatred and such fear? How could we do this to the memory of those we lost that day in September nine years ago?
They did not die at the World Trade Center for us to divide Americans into "us" and "them." They did not die at the Pentagon for us to forget that there are patriotic Americans serving this nation with honor and courage who happen to be Muslims. They did not die in that field in
Pennsylvania for us to give in to the fearmongers and the fanatics.
9/11 can't be turned into a time for demagoguery. It can't be converted into a time of xenophobia. It can't be subverted into a reason for Americans to divide. It can't be given over as a platform for our lunatic fringe. Americans of good will, of all races and colors, all genders, all religions, all political stripes, have got to hold firm and keep this day as a day of solemn remembrance.
All those men, women and children who died that day nine years ago deserve better of us than to be turned into a political football. Their loss is not an occasion to preach hatred and sow discord. We do not honor them when we lash out indiscriminately and tar with one brush huge numbers of people whose horror at the events of 9/11 was nearly as great as our own.
To the contrary, we truly honor our lost ones when we focus on what is best about this country and when we demand that all the lunatics -- even our homegrown ones -- be called to account for the damage they have done to us.
And we honor them best by using this day, as we have each year in the past, as a time for remembrance. It is time again to do what I swore I would do in the moments before the sun set that Tuesday nine years ago. It is time again to open the film cannister into which I brushed some of the dust of Ground Zero, time again to touch it with my own hands, and time again to stand witness. To make sure that I do not forget. That we do not forget. That no-one forgets. That nearly 3,000 lives will never be forgotten.
To say, one more time, this year and every year, as long as I have life and breath, in words and images, NEVER FORGET.