Last Thursday began like any other day for yours truly — find a quiet spot at Val to eat breakfast, look over the previous night’s psychology reading, and peruse the day’s issue of The New York Times. I was surprised to find the front cover of a gray-haired man in uniform, staring somberly ahead at the camera with a blurred background behind him and the caption below: “Remembering 9/11.” With merciless guilt growing in my stomach, I realized that I had forgotten Remembrance Day, but I was not alone in this.
On Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, The New York Times only held two articles about said holiday, smushed in the back of the first section on pages A22 and A24. Other publications were similar in having light coverage of the observance, choosing to publish articles about the event either a few hours into the evening on their online sites (such as USAToday and Huffington Post), the next day (like The New York Times), or even a few days later, like your favorite school publication, The Amherst Student. Save for some protestors and fundraisers like Amherst College’s own Tuesday’s Children program, most of us carried on as if it were any other day.
But last Wednesday was not any other day. Twelve years and one week ago today, an event struck our nation in such a way that we just cannot seem to let go. The lack of coverage issue is on the fence, equally divided between those who think that we should let bygones be bygones and those who can still remember exactly what they were doing on that fateful day in September all those years ago.
The attack happened twelve years ago, as Lincoln would have said “two and one decade ago”, and what does that mean? That means that 4,982 days; 6,311,000 minutes; 378,680,000 seconds, etc. have passed and 4 to 6 trillion (yes, that’s trillion with a “t”) dollars is expected to be spent by the United States government in order to gain some sense of closure. According to a recent article by Washington Post’s Ernesto Londoño, a Harvard study found that the pricey bill stems from financing wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, taking into the account of the increase in veteran benefits after the attack on 9/11, rebuilding the destroyed sites, and founding secure government agencies and departments. Furthermore, according to the CBS News article “Cost of 9/11 in Dollars”, published just two years ago, taxpayers will finish paying this debt in the year 2050, barring no more unfortunate contingencies (fingers crossed, people). What’s most upsetting about our payment for this terror is the possibility that the act of crashing into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon cost “an estimated $400,000 to $500,000 to kill 3,000 people.”
Not to mention the 9/11 attack changed many Americans’ sense of security and lifestyle as well as their wallets. Of course those directly affected by the attacks had (and still have) entirely different outlooks on life, but those who didn’t lose anyone in the destruction or lived far away from the attacks probably have a different perspective on life as well in the sense of, at least initially, stronger community and nationalist values. The search for Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) and one of the most expensive man hunts (Osama bin Laden) in American history has, at the very least, allowed more opportunities for men and women to prove themselves by serving for the nation’s armed forces. Unfortunately, because of the new securities (i.e. the NSA and Department of Homeland Security) as well as stricter enforcements in TSA checkpoints, travel has been a bit strained. Many people are still frightened by the plane crashes twelve years ago to ever trust a plane in the air again.
In regards to such a pivotal event in the nation’s history that has shaped our economy and culture, even twelve years later, I know that we cannot afford to forget. It literally cost almost six trillion dollars to try to forget. I don’t want 9/11 to be just another date on the calendar with words like “Remembrance Day” or “Patriot Day” below the numbers, not knowing what the phrase signifies, then having my next thought be about whether I have that day off from school. As long as there are problems to fix from this, we cannot afford to forget. As long as there are procedures in place because of this, we cannot afford to forget. As long as there are people who are dead, who are grieving, who are lost because of this, we cannot afford to forget. As long as there are people who remember, we cannot afford to forget.