Moira Smith was miles away from Ground Zero when the planes hit the World Trade Center, but she went there, and was killed when the South Tower collapsed. Moira Smith was a police officer, so unlike most people, she went toward the huge plume of smoke and into the burning tower that September day. Officer Moira Smith was one of the 412 who were responding to their fellow citizens’ call for help and in doing so became 9/11 victims.
The first year or so, the news was filled with stories like Moira’s as well as stories of courage and heroism from people who weren’t first responders. From the passengers of Flight 93 who crashed the plane and likely saved the U.S. Capitol or The White House to people inside the towers who just held a stranger’s hand while they went through their last minutes together.
We all promised we would never forget, but with 9/11 now 19 years in our rearview mirror, that promise is getting harder to keep.
Most students at Georgia Military College and across the U.S. who are entering college this year have no memory of September 11, 2001. They weren’t born yet.
They don’t remember thinking it was just a terrible accident for the 17 minutes between the North Tower being hit and the South Tower being hit.
They don’t remember the towers collapsing.
They don’t remember people desperately searching for their missing loved ones.
They don’t remember seeing reporters on 24-hour news networks burst into tears.
They don’t remember how the whole country put aside our differences and came together as one that day.
They don’t remember the American flag that was raised over the rubble or the flags that went up at homes and businesses across the nation.
We’re reaching the hard part of our pledge to “never forget,” and that’s to instill the meaning of that day in the next generation. Those of us who were here have told the story of where we were and how we experienced that day a thousand times. Most of us couldn’t forget if we tried. But those who weren’t here and have no memory will forget if we let them. It’s up to all of us to use this anniversary that we call Patriots Day to instill in our young people the importance of remembering a day that was unlike any other—a day where the worst of humanity brought out the best of humanity.