Commentary: Will America ever forget 9-11?
By Gary Sheftick
September 13, 2005
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 13, 2005) -- How long does it take to forget a tragedy like Sept. 11, 2001?
That question entered my mind as I attended a memorial service in the Pentagon auditorium to observe the fourth anniversary of the terrorist attack there in which 184 service members and civilian employees lost their lives.
It was a service that brought back memories and emotions that I hadnt felt in some time.
I had almost forgotten the confusion of that day and the sorrow that followed for those who didnt make it; and the guilt for not being able to help them. When their portraits flashed one-by-one on the screen at the front of the auditorium, though, those feelings returned with a sting.
I remembered the terrible burns of some survivors; the coughing and lung ailments developed by some of the rescue workers who sifted through the smoking rubble.
I couldnt help but remember the memorial service a month after the attack when about 10,000 Pentagon workers and family members attended a ceremony led by President Bush on the parade field in front of the River Entrance.
I remembered the thousands cheering when President Bush pledged action against those who perpetrated the attack, and promised that America will never forget those who gave their lives.
And I remembered the first anniversary observance, also led by the president and attended by thousands who sat in a temporary stadium built near the site where the high-jacked airliner hit the building.
Then I looked around the Pentagon service during the fourth anniversary, and noticed that it was attended by fewer than 100 military members and civilians.
I wondered if four years was long enough for some to forget? I wondered how many who lived through that day at the Pentagon had gone on to other assignments, perhaps in Iraq or Afghanistan? I wondered how many were trying to forget the pain or were just too busy with work in the War on Terror to attend a Monday memorial service?
In fairness, I knew that thousands had attended the America Supports You Freedom Walk organized by the Pentagon on Sunday, the actual anniversary of 9-11. Hundreds attended a remembrance service in Kabul, Afghanistan. And no doubt many attended Patriot Day observances all across the nation.
For those who did attend the Pentagon service, it was an emotional experience.
Paul Brady spoke about crawling through the smoke and escaping the Navy Command Center when the plane hit. Only eight of 34 who were in the command center that morning lived, Brady said, and several of the survivors were badly burned and injured.
Brady spoke of the hate and his desire for revenge following Sept. 11. He said those feelings have now softened, with a Christian re-awakening, to prayer for those who perished both the victims and perpetrators.
Pentagon Chaplain Col. Ralph Benson said We are a people of hope when speaking at the service about the enduring American spirit. He added that When we see tragedy, we remember it and move on
Hopefully we will move on, but never forget those who died Sept. 11.