By Michela Arlia
For 21 years, we have all heard the words “never forget” when it came to the tragedy that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001. But are the new generations that were too young to even remember in the first place the ones actually forgetting?
A question that occurs to me every year is whether or not the memory of the people affected directly by the attacks has been passed down to those who can’t remember.
At just under a year old when the tragedy struck, I can’t recall a single moment from the day, but I can tell you verbatim the story my parents recount every year around this time.
I was never the best sleeper as a baby, then again who was. But that day was what my mom describes as the break she needed while I slept the morning away, allowing her to glue her eyes to the television.
Everyone in New York City can tell you exactly where they were on that day, and I can confidently say I was in my umpteenth dream. Yet today, just after the twenty-first anniversary, I can still recite my immediate family’s recounts like the back of my hand.
I can tell you everything about my family’s story on 9/11, from the way my dad finally decided to borrow my mom’s cell phone going into work, to how it became a lifeline for many since it was one of the only phones with cell service in his area.
While my family was very fortunate to not have lost other members that day, many are still shaken up by memories of missing the attacks by the skin of their teeth after passing underneath the first plane hit while in the subway. But how many of the babies that slept in their cribs twenty-one years ago can say the same as me?
It just seems as though the large somber cloud that once covered the city on this particular day has gradually dissipated as the years go on. Growing up, we would hold a moment of silence in school for victims and their families. It truly stayed silent, whether you fully comprehended why or why not. In recent years, however, I’ve noticed chatter refusing to cease through the moment initially tended for respect.
Just two years ago, the pandemic was the cause for victims’ names to not be read aloud and televised on site in lower Manhattan, the first time in nineteen years. For fears of the ever-spreading COVID-19, it was decided that tradition would be broken, leaving many people angered.
Pandemic or not, hearing this news was heartbreaking to me, because it allowed a chance for the public to break the promise they swore to commit to. This would be the first major step towards forgetting, so when the Tunnels to Towers Foundation stepped in to hold a name reading ceremony off-site, I found comfort that somewhere out there, people still believed in tradition and respect.
In an effort for tradition to live on so we all would indeed “never forget,” Zuccotti Park in Manhattan was packed with family members of the fallen.
And when we turned the corner to staying on track as the 20th anniversary brought people back to ground zero to resume the usual name reading ceremony, other parts started to slip away.
Last month, the 9/11 Tribute Museum in lower Manhattan closed its doors for good after being open for viewing since 2017. The museum cited not being able to bounce back from the hardships of the pandemic for its closure. While this can be mistaken for the national September 11 memorial museum on the grounds, it was completely separate and served as an outlet for people to go and share their stories.
This factor has become one of the age-old stories where people are upset by closures of things like the tribute museum because it holds memory, but never took the time to support it financially, even by visiting. They too, have decided to go against their promise to never forget.
I feel as connected to the day as those who were old enough to remember feel. These feelings may not be expressed on the same level as others, but they are much more stronger than you would expect. Thanks to my family members continuously telling stories and informing me in an age-appropriate way, I’m able to show and uphold the utmost respect so many years later.
It’s a solemn day of remembrance, that should hold some weight in all our hearts. So parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, please take with you that even though you never will forget this day because you were there when it happened, make sure the generations to come never have a reason to forget either.