For the next couple of weeks, the attention of the media will be turned to the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon — the most devastating terrorist attacks our country has ever experienced.
We all remember where we were or what were doing on that awful day. Many had their lives changed dramatically that day, even if they lived hundreds or thousands of miles away from the actual locations of the attacks.
It was said back then that Sept. 11 is to our generation what the Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor attacks were to our parents’ generation. We remember it vividly, and we somberly acknowledge it every year.
While most of us remember it with the reverence it deserves, it still doesn’t seem real. It seems farther away as the years ago by. I would say that we owe it to those lost or transformed from the attacks to do more than commemorate the day. I think it’s important we re-experience the reality of it.
The National Geographic channel is streaming a documentary series titled “9/11: One Day in America.” It has several episodes that focus on every aspect of what happened that day, from the first responders to the victims, to government officials, to the witnesses, etc. It is a graphic birds-eye view from several perspectives of all the attacks — the towers, the Pentagon and Flight 93, which crashed due to heroics of the passengers.
The day begins with a group of firefighters on a downtown Manhattan street, not too far from the World Trade Center towers, trying to determine the source of a gas leak. Ironically, they have a video team with them that was filming a documentary on members of Engine 7, Ladder 1 firehouse in Lower Manhattan. Suddenly, you hear the violent whining of an airplane engine throttle overhead, and the film crew moves its camera up just in time to catch the first plane strike the first tower. You see just how close to the ground that first plane was. From then on, we see very up-close the dramatic footage of firefighters as they immediately respond and start to stage their rescue.
The camera crew captures every horror of the event, as well as the sadness. The fires, the sounds, the cries, the people in the towers hanging on the side of the building, some eventually falling. You hear every thud as a body hits the lobby roof just above where the firefighters are staging. You hear firefighters talking about what their job is, then you find out they didn’t make it.
The documentary also captures moments of hope. Individual rescues. Firefighter brothers, who both think the other is dead, finding each other in the street after the building collapses. Ladder 6’s amazing miracle story of survival and their rescue of one woman.
This documentary was made in conjunction with the 9-11 Memorial Commission, and it is top notch, even though it also is traumatic. So, it’s not for kids. But, in my opinion, every adult should try to see all of it or part of it.
More importantly, every member of Congress and the White House administration should be required to watch the whole thing, because too many of those folks, it seems, have lost sight of what that day meant, who was responsible, and the very real dangers terrorist organizations still pose to the U.S. today.
“The terrorists knew that if they burned those buildings in that horrific way, it would be shown all around the world, that’s what they were looking for,” said Daniel Bogado, director of the documentary series.
When you watch this documentary, the persistence and the determination of those terrorists will be made abundantly clear. It’s chilling, and anyone who thinks that determination is gone after 20 years is only fooling themselves.
Not only must we never forget. We also must understand that the same determination by terrorist enemies of the U.S. today makes it a possibility for history to be repeated if we don’t pay attention.