1. To Honor the Victims and their Families
2,977 victims died on September 11, 2001. 3,051 children lost a parent. 20 percent of Americans know someone who was either hurt or killed that day. And, Americans responded: an estimated 36,000 units of blood were donated after the attacks, and $1.4 billion was donated to various 9/11 charities to help the victims and their families.
Although it is unclear whether or not military enlistments rose as a whole after 9/11, a study by the GAO found that the military ranks became more egalitarian after the attack, drawing a larger percentage of their newer recruits from middle-class or high-income homes. Americans responded to the attacks with unity and compassion, and we should continue to honor the suffering of survivors and families through remembrance.
2. To Acknowledge the Still-Unconquered Threat of Radical Islam
Although the nature of the threat from radical Islam has changed since 2001, it is important to remember that, with modern weaponry, a small group of people do not need a state or an army in order to cause massive casualties in the U.S., or to threaten our allies abroad.
It’s important that we remember that our enemies exist, and not underestimate the threat they pose to us and our way of life.
The ideology of radical Islam has gained many adherents in every country, including in the West, and now encourages lone Americans, such as the Fort Hood shooter, to take up arms against the “Great Satan.” While recognizing that most Muslims do not subscribe to this ideology, we should nevertheless remember that this threat remains and can still do us great harm.
3. To Be Aware of Complacency in the Face of Future Attacks
Americans were collectively blindsided by the attacks of September 11. Popular country singer Toby Keith referred to 9/11 as “a mighty sucker punch… from somewhere in the back.”
Though not unknown in the halls of the State Department and Oval Office in the 1990’s, al-Queda was not considered among the more serious threats to our country until after September 11. For most Americans, 9/11 was a bloody introduction to Osama bin Laden, al-Quada and their radical Islamist ideology. We must remember 9/11 so that we are never again blindsided by a threat we foolishly believed was too insignificant to touch us.
4. Because 9/11 Reshaped the American Experience
If Communism and the Cold War shaped our parents’ political consciousness, for my generation, the attacks on 9/11 shaped ours.
Everyone remembers what he or she was doing; how it felt to hear the news that day; or seeing the footage of the towers collapsing. And, because of the attacks, we Americans find ourselves having to hold conversations and debates about invasive TSA procedures, airport security, random searches on the subway, and the PATRIOT act.
When my parents immigrated here after living in Israel for over ten years, one of the things that most impressed them about this country was how people were able to go about their daily lives free from interference and fear. On September 11, 19 terrorists not only took the lives of thousands of innocents and reshaped American politics, but also stole our carefree way of life from us.
5. To Uphold Our Principles and Way of Life
Even in troubled times, America and the American way of life is a beacon to millions of people all over the world. Ours is a unique experiment: a state constrained from the very beginning by ideas of republicanism, federalism, and self-government. America is an experiment in freedom that still draws people from every corner of the globe, attempting to create their own American Dream.
September 11, 2001, was an attack on that way of life and America’s principles—an attack we should remember. Students can help their communities remember by signing up for Young America’s Foundation’s 9/11: Never Forget Project .