On September 11, 2001, 19 al Qaeda Islamic militants carried out a hateful, pre-meditated, co-ordinated attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Arlington, and an unknown target location that failed and crashed in Shanksville, PA. These attacks caused the deaths of 2,985 innocent civilians. This day quickly became known as simply “9-11.” The mere mention of “9-11” now instantly brings memories and horrible images of planes flying into the Twin Towers; burning, smoking buildings; collapse; and crowds running from onrushing dust clouds. These memories and images, and more, are burned into the memory of millions who vividly remember that day.
However, an effort seems to be afoot to divert attention away from the 2,985 murdered innocents and toward the First Responders. I am hearing about, and have actually attended a program, and am hearing TV personalities, all talking like 9-11 was more about the First Responders than it was about the victims.
The First Responders were not the targets of the attack. They were “merely” involved in trying to rescue those who were the targets. The civilians, the buildings they were in, and the whole of America were the targets.
This is not to minimize any of the wonderful things First Responders did on 9-11, or at any time before, or since. This is a heroic group of people to be sure. They are always willing, and keep themselves available on short notice, to risk their lives to save people they do not know and property in which they have no vested interest. To their very great credit, First Responders were prominently involved on 9-11, and many were tragically killed on this day. This makes them permanently attached to the event, of course.
I think it is appropriate – and probably overdue – that First Responders have a day, or more, set aside to commemorate them and their contributions to society. But 9-11 is not that day. I am a First Responder (4-year volunteer fireman at Sturgis, MS). I don’t accept that 9-11 be that day. 9-11 should never be mixed with, or diluted with, anything that draws attention away from the victims and what happened to them, and to us, that day.
To shift attention away from the people who were killed, to the people who tried to save them, is a step away from what should remain the central focus of the event. We should not take that step. Taking that step is like a funeral service that talks more about the doctors and nurses who tried to save the diseased than it talks about the diseased himself who is there to be remembered, celebrated, and then buried. Of COURSE we appreciate the doctors and nurses who labored to save the departed loved one – and our appreciation for them is ongoing – but THE SERVICE IS NOT ABOUT THEM AT THIS TIME.
Let’s set a day to show First Responders our appreciation and support. But set that day so that it does not conflict with the victims of 9-11… so that it does not draw attention to First Responders at the expense of the victims of 9-11. 9-11 should be reserved to always, and only, commemorate the deaths of these people, and to remember with resolve those who killed them.