I remember where I was on 9/11/2001. I remember how shocking it was. I couldn’t believe the World Trade Center had actually been destroyed… hadn’t I just walked by there, 7 or 8 years ago? I even knew people with family members who were in the building when the first plane hit. And who hasn’t been annoyed by the increased airport security necessitated by those tragic events. I just read an article about a girl who was born on 9/11/2001 and now has to endure insensitive questions whenever she fills out a form with her birthdate on it.
But really, people, this happened 12 years ago. Since then, there have been almost no terrorist attacks on American soil. Yes, 3,000 people were killed that day, but that represents a tiny portion of our population. Aside from the inconveniences of enhanced security and some increased government surveillance, have Americans’ lives really changed as a result?
It was most definitely hard for my wife and me to decide how to tell our kids about the tragic events that occurred hundreds of miles away from us, but in the greater scheme of things, it really wasn’t so difficult. It’s been much tougher figuring out how to keep our kids motivated in school, or dealing with illnesses in the family. By comparison, 9/11 has hardly affected our family at all.
Yes, I understand that thousands of families were affected directly, but the numbers are trivial compared to many more real threats that we face every day. I’ve had melanoma. 9,000 people a year die from melanoma in America. These deaths affect families just as much as those that occurred on 9/11, and there have been over 100,000 since 9/11 occurred, more than 30 times the scale of 9/11. Melanoma is much easier to prevent than war or terrorist attacks, and yet we hardly ever think about it until we or someone we know faces it. Then, whether they survive or die, we let it fade from memory.
I’m not saying that we should have an annual melanoma day, or heart disease day, or slipping in the shower and dying from a concussion day — quite the opposite. I’m saying that we should try to put these things in perspective. When millions of people in Syria have been forced to leave their homeland by the ongoing war there, when over 100,000 have been killed, with more destruction going on every day, should we really put that all aside to rehash our single day of victimhood?
I’m also not saying we should forget about 9/11 entirely. I’m just saying we shouldn’t Remember 9/11 with a capital R, the way we Remember the Holocaust or the Jim Crow South. Absent our starting two misguided wars as a response, it’s not that scale of a historical event. If you want to remember 9/11, remember that we overreacted to it. Don’t talk about how it changed your life because you remember what you were doing when you heard about it on the radio. That’s the kind of memory you’d probably be better off forgetting.