Remembering 9/11: But Why? And How?

A father has brought his small child to a playground. Seeing a poster commemorating the events of 9/11, the child asks why the poster is there.

“We must always remember 9/11,” says the father.

“But why, Daddy?” the child asks, frowning.

The father proceeds to tell the story of the four commercial planes that were hijacked that day by terrorists, and how thousands of innocent people were killed when three of those buildings crashed into large buildings.

“So,” says the child, “does that mean we need to guard our big buildings better so that planes can’t fly into them?”

Now it’s the father’s turn to frown. Exactly what is it that he wants his child to learn about the events we all refer to as “9/11”? If the answer lies in the guarding of skyscrapers, then what’s the point of the average American remembering that date?

“We need to guard against terrorists,” he says, finally.

“What’s a terrorist?” asks the child.

The father explains to the child that a terrorist is someone who wants to become powerful by hurting innocent people.

“Like a bully?” asks the child.

“Exactly,” says the father.

“Then I’ll grow up to fight bullies,” says the child.

The father nods, but somehow the conversation feels less than satisfying. What exactly should we learn?

Perhaps today’s statement by former President Barack Obama via Twitter sums it up best:

“For Michelle and me, the enduring image of that day is not simply falling towers or smoldering wreckage. It’s the firefighters running up the stairs as others were running down. The passengers deciding to storm the cockpit, knowing it could be their final act. The volunteers showing up at recruiters’ offices across the country on the days that followed, willing to put their lives on the line.” 

In other words, 9/11 is not worth remembering because of what the terrorists did. It’s worth remembering because of how our best Americans responded.

Spirited Reasoners find hope in those words.