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I am not exactly sure where the phrase “Always Remember, Never Forget” came from, but that seems to have always been connected with the events that happened on September 11, 2001. I am sure that, even 17 years later, many of us DO remember. Not just what happened; but where we were, what we were doing, who we were with.
I (Josh) was getting ready for school, and I remember my dad pounding on my bedroom door, insisting that I come out right away. I wasn’t sure, at first, what was going on, so I got dressed and opened the door to my bedroom to see my father’s face white with terror as he said “Come quick! The world is changing right before your eyes”. I remember going to the living room, where the rest of my family was already gathered around our television and seeing the smoke from the first tower and feeling shock and fear just as the second plane hit the other tower. Later that day I was at school, watching from my classroom, when the third plane hit the Pentagon. In all, there were four planes that went down that day killing 2,996 people and injuring over 6,000 others.
Seventeen years later, and my dad was probably right – that the world was changing before our eyes. The events of September 11, 2001 started a war in Afghanistan – A global effort to oppose terrorism. The Twin Towers are gone, and One World Trade Center (also known as the Freedom Tower) has been erected in their place. But that isn’t all. Our very culture has been affected by the events of 9/11, as you can turn on the radio and hear Toby Keith’s song Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue that recalls many of the events during and our response to, the attacks on 9/11. The attacks have subsequently been used as background, narrative or thematic element in film, television, music and literature. Psychologists have even recognized heightened anxiety related to commercial air travel. And we cannot forget the impact these attacks still have on our U.S. Military, as they continue to oppose terrorism across the globe. In fact, our military and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs have gone through many changes since, to adapt and cater to the unique population of post 9/11 service members and veterans. In the wake of the attacks, our military budget has increased by 50% since pre 9/11 which, in turn, has allowed the Pentagon to operate differently than any other time in history – expanding programs and exploring new methods of how to approach this goal. The Department of Homeland Security was established in 2002 with a mission that covers anti-terrorism, border security, immigration and customs, cyber security, disaster prevention and management. Even our knowledge about other people, places, and cultures has expanded since 9-11, with names like Osama Bin-Laden and Saddam Hussein, and people actually knowing where places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan are located on a map. We cannot deny the nation’s focus on different cultures and personal beliefs has definitely been impacted.
In many ways, the attacks on September 11, 2001 have changed us as a nation. So much so that we may never be the same again. But we will Always Remember where we were, what we were doing, who we were with when we heard that the first plane had hit the tower, and as the events of that day began to unfold. We will Never Forget that as a nation, we have faced adversity and opposition before, and we have come out on top. We are doing so again – 17 years later, and that we are, and always will be, proud to be Americans.