The Full Scope of “Never Forget”

Today marks a very solemn day in the fire service, as we reflect on the tragic events of this day in 2001, where our country was attacked and numerous Americans from all walks of life rose to the occasion to help others.

It’s days like these that define an entire generation.  You will always remember where you were and what you were doing when everything went down.  Unfortunately, many monumental days like this, such as D-Day, Pearl Harbor, and the Kennedy Assassination, seem to fade away as time goes on.  To combat that, our generation has repeatedly used the phrase “Never Forget.”

However, as time passes, other events occur that place the attacks further in the rear view mirror.  Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, two wars, countless devastating wildfires, and multiple massive tornado outbreaks over the last decade have taken some of the spotlight off of what happened at the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Virginia, and on a field in Shanksville Pennsylvania on September 11th, 2001.  It is totally natural.  I understand.

Since we are going to use today to “Never Forget,” I wanted to really sit down and expand on the things we truly need to never forget.  You see…..while most of America has moved on, parts of it hasn’t.  And we should never forget that.

Without saying, we should never forget the 343 fire fighters who made the ultimate sacrifice that morning.  Facing insurmountable odds, these men charged straight into not one, but two towering infernos and did their job.  One can only wonder how staggering the death toll would have been had it not been for fire fighters continuing to press on in the gravest of situations.

But we should also never forget the thousands of fire fighters that were there and survived that day.  Many were in the towers and the surrounding area when they collapsed.  Their actions were no less heroic.  However, since 9/11, they have had to endure the lingering effects of the traumatization that accompanies an event of this magnitude, such as pulling dead friends from the rubble, attending hundreds of funerals of fallen brother fire fighters, and assisting the families of the deceased, all while many are suffering from the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder themselves.  Very few people, if any, will ever understand what these brave men and women have gone through since the attacks.

We should never forget the workers who, for months on end, responded to Ground Zero to search for victims and clear the rubble pile.  Day after day, week after week, month after month, people were pulling severed and crushed body parts out of the rubble and moving debris.  Many of these workers suffer from and/or have already died from respiratory diseases and rare cancers that have names I can’t even pronounce.

We should not forget the communities that have suffered through this ordeal.  Many neighborhoods have lost fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters who were also serving their communities as athletic coaches, scout troop leaders, church members, etc.  The  attacks of September 11th, 2001 has rocked many communities to its core, just about affecting every community organization in these neighborhoods in one way or another.

Most of all, we should never forget the families that have suffered through this tragedy.  Many fire fighter wives have become widows way too early.  A lot of their children will never truly know their father.  For the next generation, there will be many kids out there experiencing their first little league base hit, scoring their first touchdown or goal, attending prom, graduating high school, walking down the aisle, and having their own children, without their father present to cheer them on, with their only solace coming from someone saying “Your father would have been proud.”  To forget what they have endured over the first part of their lives would be a travesty.

I can go on and on about all the things we should never forget about this day.  However, it is most important that we “Never Forget” about the magnitude of the day, the heroic actions of many, and the lingering effects this event has and will have for our generation in the years to come.

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