Remember who we are

In a comment over at According to Hoyt, I wrote the following: “I tried my best to turn my political science degree into a counseling degree, like all our faculty did, as I spoke with students who had lost loved ones in the towers. I was teaching at SUNY Brockport, outside of Rochester, NY. One of my students found out his uncle and cousin had died when he recognized their smashed rig (fire truck) on a TV shot. A piece of the first tower had fallen onto the truck. Another student sent me a very polite email to let me know he’d be gone for about a week as he and his parents were going to NYC to try to locate his sister who worked in one of the towers. He assured me he’d keep up with his coursework. Broke my heart. Fortunately they found his sister alive in a hospital.

In honor of all those we lost that day, we must keep our heads up and keep moving forward together.

Let’s roll.”

As was pointed out in that post, on that day and the days following we came together as a nation and as a people. Yes, of course, the usual whack-jobs went about claiming that the whole thing was perpetrated by Israel or Bush or the Illuminati or Masons or whomever. Even the Democratic party went into full overdrive insisting that Bush’s foreign policies were to blame for the attack. But ordinary people, people who sent loved ones off to work in the Twin Towers every day, people who went to work every day, who understood that pure hate drove the hijackers, those people pulled together and went about mourning the dead, both the human losses and the idealistic losses. They donated blood, sent canine search and rescue teams, donated food, blankets, space for exhausted firefighters, police, and paramedics to sleep. They volunteered wherever they could. They ignored the politicians and the whack jobs.

I was a newly minted assistant professor of political science. Nothing in my grad school career or nascent teaching career had prepared me for helping students deal with such an immense tragedy. I spent the better part of the week doing what I could for the psyches of my college students. I threw out my syllabi in every class and we talked about fanaticism in the service of government goals, of non-government organizations that took over governments, of political culture, civic culture. We talked about everything they wanted to talk about. I knew we weren’t going to make sense of anything immediately, but we tried to find all the information we could. We tried to…find answers.

In the years following I spent every September 11 (if I was teaching that day, the days around it if not) going over the events of the day, discussing the policies before and since. Every year the discussion has died a bit faster as 2001 became old history for younger students. It dawned on me today that current college seniors were two years old in 2001.

Almost more than the day itself we need to remember now how we all felt the day after and the day after that. We need to regain that feeling. We need to remember that we are all one nation whether we were lucky enough to be born here or whether we chose to be here. We need to reclaim our unique heritage from those who would twist it beyond all recognition.

Remember who we are. Remember who you are.

Let’s roll.

Photo credit: Baltimore Sun