“In order to understand our present and ensure our future, we must know our past.”
(The meaning of Sankofa.)
As the nation pauses to reflect on the horrific events of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, otherwise known as 9/11, individual memories are focused on what one was doing on that dreadful day and time.
That morning life in America was, for the most part, proceeding as usual. Most Americans were headed to work or already seated at their desks, including school-aged children starting a new school year. Suddenly, the routine was disrupted when news spread that a U.S. airplane had slammed into one of the twin towers at the World Trade Center in New York. Within minutes, the second tower was hit, and then the Pentagon, and soon after, a fourth plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania. Thousands of Americans were killed, including three D.C. Public School teachers and three students on their way to California to participate in an event sponsored by National Geographic.
Reports quickly circulated that hijackers were responsible. It wasn’t long before U.S. authorities identified these men and their country of origin. Nevertheless, it was an attack on America, and public outcry demanded revenge. While Americans sought their loved ones in the rubble caused by the crashes — and to date, the bodies of hundreds of victims were never found — American troops were called to war against a country believed to be the home of the enemy — Afghanistan. Soon after, Iraq also became the target of the U.S. military and the allied forces.
Realizing the mounting number of U.S. casualties, along with the hundreds of thousands of Afghan civilians also killed, U.S. officials moved beyond rhetoric to action. Twenty years later, President Joe Biden called for an end to the war and ordered U.S. troops home effective Aug. 31, 2021.
Much has changed in the U.S. since 9/11, especially related to homeland security. In many ways, we all are subjects of U.S. surveillance, but do we feel any safer? Many ask, “Was this war worth it.” And, where would we be today if Congress and President George W. Bush took heed to the warnings of Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Cal.), who cast the single vote against the Afghan war? She warned of its repercussions, and today, she has no regrets.
We will never forget 9/11 because of the lives lost on that day and after. More importantly, remembering the past must help us understand the present and ensure a better future.