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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.
This isn’t meant as self-promotion, and I hope it doesn’t come off that way.
Working on this project now for six years, several times I’ve been caught by the coincidences that crop up.
The first year, while randomly assigning names, one participant wound up writing a tribute to someone who had lived in the house next door (though at different times). When I started Project 2,996 I didn’t know anyone who died that day–or any of their families. Sometime after I started the project I made friends with a family in my neighborhood, but it was another year until I discovered that my their BIL/Uncle had died in WTC1.
Last night I was struck by another coincidence. In the last few years I’ve taken up with a bagpipe band here in Raleigh–Wake & District Pipes & Drums–and I’m now part of the drumline. A few weeks ago when our Pipe Major asked for volunteers to play for the Jimmy V Gala to raise money for cancer research, I volunteered because…well, pipes & drums and then the pub on a Saturday night…what could be better?
It was only once I was at the Gala that I realized that the guests of honor this year were a group of 9/11 first responders and ground zero workers who have developed cancer.
In the video linked below, you can see the band playing (at the 0:16 mark)… I was right behind the Bass Drum, which comes into frame right as they cut away.
I’ve received a couple of comments on this so I just want to be clear that the list of 2,996 name does NOT contain the hijackers.
When I downloaded the list 5 years ago I chose to include both those officially listed as killed, AND those listed as missing. In the last 5 years a small number of those originally listed as missing have been added to the list of official victims. As of right now, the number of missing is 19, the same as the number of hijackers.
My list is not identical to the official list of victims. From the beginning I decided that I’d rather accidentally include a name than accidentally exclude someone.
On this day, do not be sad. To mourn a loss is normal and healthy. But we must work to not dwell.
Take this day, not to remember mass murder, but to remember the 2,996 people who are loved and missed.
Go here and read about some wonderful people.
If you sent me an email or a new link after 9/10/11 at noon, please be patient. These are a busy couple of days.
A bunch of the emails I’m getting are links of tributes that I have mistakenly listed as dead links. But one helpful emailer gave me a clue that made 2 + 2 = something a little more than 4. The practical upshot is that today I’m pouring through about 1700 links that may not really be dead links.
I’m crossing my fingers that the good part of the list will get MUCH longer later today.