Unfortunately, people have a tendency to look at events that occurred before they were born as insignificant because they didn’t personally experience them or have any connection to them. How can we pass along to the current and future generations the importance of remembering, or learning, about 9/11, its significance to our country, and why we need to “never forget?”
I’ve heard that some groups and individuals will not be posting any remembrances of 9/11 this year, saying things like it’s no longer relevant because it happened so long ago. Sorry folks, I’ll still have my September 11 remembrance flag out in front of the house this year. Not remembering 9/11 is like not remembering Pearl Harbor or the Civil War. It was a significant event in our country’s history that forever changed the way we travel and our worldview.
The September 11th terrorist attacks killed 2,997 people, left children without their parents, and parents without their sons and daughters. The attacks destroyed two iconic office buildings, four aircraft, and the Pentagon, our nation’s military headquarters, was attacked. Entire businesses were lost and people experienced personal and financial hardships. The entire U.S. aviation system literally shut down. Reverberations from 9/11 were felt throughout the country, and can still be felt to this very day. 9/11 showed us we were vulnerable. We lost certain freedoms we used to enjoy. Two wars resulted from 9/11. We now teach aviation security in our collegiate aviation programs, whereas before, it may have been a footnote to an existing airport management curriculum.
If for no other reason, the lessons of 9/11 should never be forgotten because it can happen again. I won’t go into the specifics of how any aviation attack could be carried out, but understand that anyone determined enough, with enough time and resources, is capable of carrying out an attack on aviation. Our job is deterrence – to make it as difficult as possible so attackers will consider other targets, or hopefully, select non-violent methods to seek the changes or the attention they desire.
The key lesson is that we cannot become complacent. Just because there hasn’t been a significant terrorist attack on the U.S. since 9/11/2001, doesn’t mean one isn’t just around the corner. When 9/11 happened, there had not been a major terrorist attack on U.S. aviation since the bombing of Pan Am 103 in 1988. That’s 22 years in between major aviation attacks. How long has it been since 9/11? Oh right, 22 years.
The ramifications of 9/11 continue to be felt to this day whenever we go to an airport and go through the extensive and expensive security process. Many of us remember a time when we could go right to the gate to see our friends and family off, and pick them up right at the gate. The airport was a fun experience. Now it’s something to be endured (and I do credit the thousands of airport personnel out there who are trying to create a better passenger experience, despite the processes involved).
At one conference several years ago, a young person raised the question in front of a room full of aviation security professionals of why we thought 9/11 was such a big deal? The room was aghast. To his credit, due to his youth, he never experienced 9/11 like the industry professionals had. People like this young man don’t need to be derided, they need to be educated.
I remember after 9/11 when we said we’d never forget 9/11. It the responsibility of the generations that lived through that horrific event to make sure subsequent generations know about this national tragedy and that it should never be forgotten; we accomplish this by teaching the next generations about what happened on that day, and why it will always be relevant.