“Never Forget” when voiced this time of year refers to the sneak attack on civilians on 9/11/01, killing almost 3,000 of us. The attackers targeted unarmed civilians. When I was our youngest son’s age, “Never Forget” admonished, equally loudly and passionately, for us to always remember the Pearl Harbor sneak attack–executed during pretend peace negotiations on behalf of the attacking Japanese–on our military base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 12/7/41, killing a similar number. For others of that time, Never Forget referred to the Holocaust.
We have all but completely forgotten Pearl Harbor. The Holocaust was little known outside of the survivors and perpetrators until 15 years after WWII ended; it was the 1960 televised trial of Adolph Eichmann, the head of the SS who organized the Holocaust, that brought those lasting horrors to light internationally. Yet that memory also fades.
And Never Forget about 9/11 will also be forgotten.
Are these fading memories healing and beneficial, or are these dim memories red flags about what we have not learned from history, and are doomed to repeat?
That is the subject of today’s 10-minute episode.
Allow me to start this part of our time together with two questions:
- Must these need-to-be-remembered events be enormous disasters, or can then include less momentous and uplifting actions?
- Why are we advised to remember these events? Is it bedause we should be mentally clenching our fists, saying “Never Forget” because these SOBs are not going to get away with something like that again? Or are there more important, more universally applicable lessons we need to learn–and remember?
I’ll start with adding some other memories that we should know about in the first place, and should never forget after we understand them:
- Charles Lindberg’s first solo crossing by airplane of the Atlantic in 1927. Inspired by the prestigious Orteig Award and $25K cash prize, fancy money then, several well-funded groups competed to be the first to fly across the ocean; more for the fame than the cash. Lindberg was flying WWI planes carrying US mail when he decided to compete and win. No money, no backers; he just made a decision. And he did it. The lesson here is the power of making a decision and sticking to it.
- Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962: The Cuban Missile Crisis was a successful 13-day confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union prompted by the American discovery of Soviet ballistic missile deployment in Cuba. The lesson here is that from time-to-infrequent-time, America needs to put it all on the line to keep the peace and remain secure.
I want to share an informative eventful experience with you. In 1989 I was at the “Bay Bridge” World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s. It was game 3, with the Giants having lost the first two. I took the bus up from San Mateo, CA where I lived at the time. The ride was loud, raucous and a ton of fun, compete with face-painted fans, beer coolers and shouted predictions of victory for one team or the other. I had a Sony Watchman portable TV in my lap in the stadium as the crowd awaited the start of the game. The players were taking the field; it was still daylight and the stadium lights were not yet turned on. Suddenly, there was a loud rumbling and shaking that went on for a long moment. No one had any idea that we had just been hit by the 7.0 Loma Prieta earthquake that would kill 63 people and injure more than 3,700. Some fans were yelling “Play ball!” and others were just confused. I looked at my TV and all the channels were showing the test pattern. Others observed that certain radio stations were off the air. Power to the stadium had been knocked out, so there were no announcements. It was not until the umps picked up the bases and the players went into the stands to be with their families that we figured out that an earthquake had hit, and the game was cancelled.
This takes me back to the lessons that I derive from 9/11. Yes, we need to protect ourselves from being attacked again. And we need to anticipate how the next attack may be different from Jihadist with box cutters attacking the iconic World Trade Center with hijacked commercial airplanes. The more important lessons started on 9/12. We came together as a country. We came together primarily because we saw a common enemy. As hard to pin down as this is enemy was, we were still starkly aware of our attackers. Pointing out, or even inventing, a common enemy has long been an effective tool to bring groups or nations together. There is a better, stronger and longer-lasting way of bringing us together. And that brings us to today’s key point.
Today’s key point: The vital observation in the 9/11 attacks is not who attacked us, but who they attacked. They attacked the only nation earth ever to be founded on a set of principles; principles which have stood long enough to make America, our country, our nation, the world’s oldest democracy. The principles laid out in the Declaration and the Constitution were proclaimed by no less than Dr. Martin Luther King to have been a “promissory note.” A note that our forebears have been fulfilling at enormous cost in blood and treasure; a fulfillment process that continues with us today. When we buy into, when we identify with and sign up for those principles, then we become today’s successors to Revolution 1.0 in 1776. That revolution started the process of making America a unique and exceptional nation. We–you and I–have an equally unique and exceptional role to play in continuing to move America forward. Attacks such as Pearl Harbor and 9/11 should be reminders of who we are as a people, always and forever bound together by ideals, ideas and principles–not simply the temporary stimulus of reacting to a common enemy. Enemies come and go. Our principles and ideals are enduring.
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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.