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As seen from the New Jersey Turnpike near Kearny, N.J., smoke billows from the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York after airplanes crashed into both towers Tuesday, Sept.11, 2001. (AP Photo/Gene Boyars)

GENE BOYARS

As seen from the New Jersey Turnpike near Kearny, N.J., smoke billows from the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York after airplanes crashed into both towers Tuesday, Sept.11, 2001. (AP Photo/Gene Boyars)

Editorial

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Of the thousands of students who started their higher education careers at East Carolina University and Pitt Community College this year, the vast majority are 17 or 18 years old. It is therefore on this day that we are reminded that these young men and women were only 5 or 6 years old when hijackers took control of commercial aircraft with the intention of crashing them into cherished American landmarks.

For these young people, the events of that terrible day and the weeks that followed are a memory told in yellowed news stories and dated video clips that lack the full and stunning horror of what transpired. And as we pay tribute to the lives lost 12 years ago, we are reminded that tending to those memories, keeping them alive, helps to preserve that history for the next generation and those to follow.

There are some details that remain indelible, like the image of two proud and majestic towers billowing black smoke against a cloudless blue sky. And there are feelings that are easily memorable— the shock of seeing a second plane strike the World Trade Center and the sickening sense of helplessness watching the buildings fall. For years since, the entire attack has been reduced to three numbers, summarizing everything: 9/11.

Yet, as the years slip by, fuzziness creeps into the margins. What was once specific now, for many, requires a bit of thought. Was it a Tuesday or a Monday? What was the name of that passenger on United 93? Or the flight attendant, or the New York City Fire Department chaplain? So many memories are preserved forever for those who witnessed it — a “Where were you?” moment for an entire nation — but some are already lost to the ages.

Some 2,977 people were killed on Sept. 11, nearly one-third of whom were first-responders — fire fighters, police officers and Port Authority security — trying to help those in need. Those who perished in the Twin Towers and in the Pentagon committed no crime; they simply showed up for work that morning. The passengers who died on United 93 were attempting to take control of the plane when it crashed in rural Pennsylvania.

These are the stories that should be commemorated, the memories that should be preserved and the lives that should be honored on this day, so that future generations — like students at East Carolina, at PCC and those at Pitt County schools who were not born when Sept. 11 happened — may understand.

via The Daily Reflector.

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