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September 11: Now I Know What Never to Forget

September 12, 2010
WTC. Photo courtesy http://www.dailymail.co.uk

Every year I seem to suffer a range of emotions the days leading up to and after the anniversary of September 11, 2001.  Sorrow, anger, hatred, shame, frustration.  Nine years later, I don’t grieve as much for the ones who died, suffered, or were left behind that day.  I’m not as angered and filled with hatred for the planners and perpetrators.  No longer am I ashamed of the failures of our nation’s intelligence network.  I am no longer frustrated that the heavy hand of vengeance has not come down on those who struck.  Nor am I uneasy about what wickedness this way may still come.  It is now nine long years hence and I just now understand what troubles me.  More importantly, now I know what changed in me that day.

In the days and weeks following September 11, 2001 I thought a lot about how I must reach a new plateau of physical and mental strength so that when more attacks happened, as they surely would, I could do something:  resist, fight, escape, save, help.

Shanksville, PA. Photo courtesy Valencia M. McClatchey

But that was not how I was changed that day.  On this September 11, it is clear that the first September 11 was when I was clearly shown, in my time and in places I knew and have been, that evil does exist.

Of course before that I had heard of murders, rapes, and even of children killing, marinating, and eating their own parents.  But I always chalked that up to some mental deficiency or psychosis – the synchronous misfiring of a million mysterious bodily functions.  After all, it doesn’t take a lot of skill, cunning, or planning to strangle your wife while she sleeps next to you.  Evil indeed, but a different flavor.

But on that day nine years ago, evil revealed itself in its grandest form.  Evil which was calculated, premeditated, innocent-targeting, self-sacrificing, and murderous by many whilst carrying God’s name.  It was the greatest of evils – the Greatest Sin.

Most of us were spectators of the September 11 atrocities.  That is, we were not numbered among those instantly endangered, those that tried to escape from or repel the acts, or those that duty-bound walked and ran into the way of harm. But for those of us on the periphery, could the evil be any closer but to be directly upon our heads?

The Pentagon. Photo courtesy http://www.globalsecurity.org

Soon after September 11, 2001, Never Forget became the national motto to remember what happened in New York City, at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania that day.  At first it seemed, to me at least, a mantra to humble ourselves into recognizing that our life and our world can change in an instant.  As the shock subsided, Never Forget seemed to me to resemble a warrior cry – a call to forever seek vengeance and retribution upon all who had a hand in the acts, celebrated them afterward, or aspired to do similar.  My Never Forget means something else today.

As we know that the opposite of good is bad, the antithesis of evil is goodness.  But the opposite alone does not neutralize the other.  It is not enough to merely be good to oppose evil.  It is foremost important to recognize evil when you see it.  That is because evil not only acts, but it plans and it schemes.  It manipulates and it lies, and it celebrates and justifies itself.  To fight and repel evil – the kind that visited us on September 11, 2001 and left the scars we all bear – we must be able to accept that evil exists and is as real as goodness we’ve always known.  For me, I will Never Forget that evil exists.

Photo courtesy AP/ Susan Walsh

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3 Comments
  1. The Castleton Crusader :) AKA Kristi Nastars permalink
    September 13, 2010 6:19 pm

    Hugo-Thank you.

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