September 11, 2001. The day that changed the United States forever.
The day that 2,997 people lost their lives as a direct result of terrorist action against the United States. But it didn’t end there. Since then over 16,000 responders have gotten sick as a direct result of their presence at the scene of the terror attack.
The NYPD has lost more than 150 additional officers to related illnesses. The NYFD has lost more than 180. Every year, the list of names continues to grow longer.
At a time when our country is more polarized around the ideas of systemic racism and injustice, it can be easy to forget how much our nation’s police officers and firefighters agree to give up when they sign on to do their jobs. Much like the American military, these men and women go to work every day knowing that they could give their lives in defense of American citizens.
Today’s children don’t remember the horror that our nation felt that day. To them, it’s something that their parents talk about. It’s something they learn about in their history class. Those whose families weren’t directly affected learn about the event and aftermath the same way they learn about Pearl Harbor. It has no immediacy for them.
I’m glad they don’t remember the overwhelming sense of disbelief, loss, and horror that engulfed our country that day. But I’m also sad that they couldn’t see what happened afterward.
For a time after 9/11, our country was fiercely united. People from across the nation came together to donate blood, money, and time to support the families of the victims of the attack and the first responders who gave their lives. This country stood up as one to tell the world that we would not be afraid; that we would stand firmly in support of our democratic ideals.
It is my hope that this country can remember that feeling of unity today, as we look back 18 years to the events of September 11, 2001. It’s my hope that we can carry that sense of unity forward with us into the future.
Jenn Bentley is a freelance journalist and editor whose work has appeared in a number of publications, including Wander No More, The High Tech Society, Yahoo News, FansShare, Examiner.com, and more. Follow her on Twitter: @JennBentley_