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17 years ago I woke up on a fold-out bed, on the last day of a vacation, and turned the TV on to watch the first tower fall. The couple we were staying with were a cop and a firefighter–they were off that day but went in to work without being asked. With all flights grounded it took us nearly 2 weeks to get home.
That’s one of millions of our stories that end with coming back home. Nearly 3,000 stories didn’t end that way.
Please take the time today to go read about at just 1 of these people–who died in a battle they didn’t know they were going to fight.
The excerpt below is from an NPR article. You can read the full story there.
“His name was Scott Michael Johnson, and he was 26 years old when a plane flew into the World Trade Center tower he worked in on Sept. 11, 2001.
His remains have now been identified, nearly 17 years later after the attack.
New York City’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner announced the news on Wednesday.”
“In 2001, we made a commitment to the families of victims that we would do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to identify their loved ones,” Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson said in a statement. “This identification is the result of the tireless dedication of our staff to this ongoing mission.”
The excerpt above is from an NPR article. You can read the full story there.
I’ve already seen posts on social media, criticizing people for using hashtags like #JeSuisParis, and posting images of France. They’re calling it hollow. Hashtag activism.
They couldn’t be more wrong.
The purpose of terrorism is to inspire terror. And it works. That will always happen when people are thrown into a swarm of violence.
But the goal of terrorism is to drive us apart by making us fearful of our neighbors–to make us scared and distrustful of people who aren’t just like us. And that’s something we can fight.
It’s impossible for me to think about 9/11 without also recalling other images from those terrifying days. An atrium at a Volkswagen plant in Germany, blanketed with tens of thousands of prayer candles… The US National Anthem played at England’s changing of the guard… French citizens making a shrine at the US Embassy. At a time when we were attacked, when we were scared, people who couldn’t offer any other help in that moment were able to say that they were there for us.
If a hashtag does nothing more than offer a scared Parisian the comfort of knowing they have friends, then it’s far from worthless.
An Empire State Building lit up with the French colors, isn’t hollow. It’s a way of saying to a friend, that even though we don’t always agree, even though we sometimes fight, and even though I can’t be there with you tonight, I will stand with you and stare into the darkness.
For as long as it takes.
Project 2,996 was created back in 2006. So, even though we’re not yet 10 years old, this will be the 10th 9/11 where we have encouraged others to remember these people not by rehashing their very public deaths, but by learning about their lives.
I’ll freely admit when the idea came to me that I didn’t expect it to take off the way it did. In fact, until right before 9/11 I actually had the information contained on a single page of my existing blog. Then on 9/11 so many people visited my website–to see the list and follow the links–that I used up all my allotted traffic before I even woke up. I had trouble getting my site back up because every time my webhost tried to bring it back up a flood of incoming traffic immediately took it back down. Thankfully, some of the other participants put up mirrors of the list. That first year, even though my site was down for more than 12 hours, my webhost logged more than 2 million incoming requests.
However, what shocked me was how many people were willing to sign up to learn about–and write about–someone they never met.
This year–as I always do–I invite you to learn about those killed on 9/11.
The full list (on this site)
Our Facebook page
Project 2996 Legacy Group on Pinterest
I just updated with a few new tributes, and some fixed links.
Thanks to Darryl for getting a post up yesterday. What with work, moving, and a few memorial ceremonies on the drumline with the pipe band, I just haven’t had much free time in the last few weeks. So thanks, for taking care of that.
If you have written a new tribute, if I have the wrong link, or if for some reason I’m missing your link, be sure to leave a comment and let me know.
I waited to write this post until late in the day. I was curious how the eleventh anniversary would be marked across the country. Eleven years after, we have passed two milestones. A little more than a year ago, the primary organizer of the attacks (no I will not mention his name) was killed. Last year this was still fresh and many people asked if we would enter a new chapter in our collective remembrance. The other milestone was the tenth anniversary. We love our round numbers, and as silly as it seems, a decade seems a natural time for our psyches to move on to a less burning form of grief.
As many suspected, today’s ceremonies were more subdued than they have been in past years. Anger has faded. We’ve stopped asking Why? and come to understand that once you look closely, there are no satisfactory answers that can explain why madness does what it does. Politicians have moved on and left families to handle the day themselves. And what is largely left to those who choose to mark September 11 th , is reflection.
Over the last six years I’ve talked to many people about the events of that day, and about how chose to move on. Some were family or friends of those who died, most weren’t. And I’ve noticed a pattern.
September 11 th has been used by politicians to further their own points of view. But the rank and file have generally treated the day as a day to forget the things that make us different. I’ve made sure to keep Project 2,996 free of politics, but was neither the first nor the last to make that decision.
If you look at the anniversary over the last few years, you can see that gradually, 9/11 is becoming a day to focus on the things that we agree on, instead of this things that separate us. It’s become a day to forget about partisanship. There are early attempts at making it a day to do something positive—a day to help others—whether through blood drives or charitable work.
I can’t think of a better thing to do on 9/11.
When I get up tomorrow morning I’ll write a real 11th anniversary post.
Right now, I just wanted to apologize to all of you who are leaving comments or sending me emails with updated or new tribute links. Work has been crazy these last two weeks and the pipe and drum band is getting ready for a competition this weekend, so even my hobby is keeping me busy.
I will get to updating the list with all of the hard work you’ve put in, but it’s just not going to happen by tomorrow.