It has hit me that many on tumblr weren’t born when 9-11 took place… So I make my plea, please, don’t forget what happened.
When you write down today’s date on your homework, don’t look at it as though it’s something you can’t recall, or something that happened so long ago that it’s now irrelevant. Because for some of us it’s still so real. For some, it was the day our childhood ended. When we saw towers fall and people in far off lands stomp on our flag. Because for some, we can still remember what we wore. We can remember seeing the plane hit the second tower. For some, we can remember sitting in 5th grade social studies with Mrs Owens and listening to the radio saying the pentagon had been hit only to go home and watch coverage of the towers fall and a smokey field in Pennsylvania. Of spending the next three months with red ribbons on our shirts and moments of silence after the pledge.
Your history books will show you glossy photos but our memories bare a sharper image. We remember the photos of dust covered faces crossing the Washington Bridge fleeing Manhattan. We remember the pillar of smoke rising against a brilliant blue sky. We remember the sight of people stranded in airports in the us and canada trying to get home. We remember the blood drives, the volunteerism, the american flags that hang from the windows to the front doors to our socks.
You’ve come of age in a time where we divide into political camps over emails and tea parties. You can’t remember that “united we stand” once meant something. That it held us together as we made sense of the weeks to come.
Remember 9-11. It has shaped you even if you were too young to realize it. Remember 9-11, the heroes that died just doing what the do. Remember 9-11 that “Let’s Roll” is as much our creed as “in God we trust” or “Remember the Alamo”.
When hijacked planes flew into the World Trade Center, Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania 15 years ago, US airspace was shut down and planes ordered to land. Some 38 planes with 6,579 passengers were diverted to Gander, a remote town in Newfoundland, Canada, because of its vast airport that hosted the Queen, the Beatles and Muhammad Ali before the jet engine rendered it superfluous. And then they were stranded far from home.
With the new arrivals, the population of Gander has almost doubled overnight. The hospitality of the locals is inspiring as they take passengers into their homes, give them free food, clothes and other essentials and rally with Blitz spirit. Lifelong friendships are formed in this strange limbo. The aircraft, meanwhile, sit slowly sinking into the tarmac.
The “plane people” are from more than a hundred countries and react in different ways. A mother is desperate for news of her son, a firefighter in New York. A pioneering female airline captain fears for her friends and colleagues. A man is worried that his wallet will be stolen but learns to worry less. A gay couple fear the reaction of a seemingly conservative community. Romances are forged and others unravel. Some find that being stranded is escapism, a chance to reinvent themselves.
All of this could so easily have descended into earnest schmaltz with a “the darkest hour is just before the dawn” homily about hope rising from the ashes of 9/11. But like Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, the show is tougher than it first appears. A Muslim man heard speaking Arabic on the phone is treated with hostility and suspicion. After days of being stranded, tempers begin to fray. And when the passengers finally leave, there is a sense of emptiness on both sides.
Hein observes: “It was not sunshine and lollipops. It was a real event that happened to real people.”
“On September 11, 2001, 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda hijacked four airplanes and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States. Two of the planes were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a third plane hit the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C., and the fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. Almost 3,000 people were killed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which triggered major U.S. initiatives to combat terrorism and defined the presidency of George W. Bush.”