Any American over the age of 14 years old yesterday (September 11th 2011) will be unlikely to forget the events of 9/11/01. In fact I am a bit put off by the constant reminder to ‘Never forget’ – as if that would be even remotely possible.
The tragic events of 9/11 will be etched in the memories of Americans as long as we live. I was not quite four years old when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated November 22, 1963. While I was far too young to truly understand the significance of day I do have memories of my family’s sadness and consider that day to be the first important world event that ever impacted me.
I suspect that as in the case of 9/11, Americans that were around and old enough to understand the events of JFK’s assassination in 1963 can remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they first learned of the tragic event.
Can two events like 9/11 and the assassination of JFK be compared? Not in the context of more than 3,000 people losing their lives, the impact on their families and the psyche of an entire nation. But I do compare those two events in the context of watershed days in my life that can never be forgotten. As is the case with 9/11, JFK’s assassination in fact did impact the psyche of an entire nation. It could be argued that both events represented a loss of American innocence – in decidedly different ways but no less impactful.
It has to be acknowledged that perhaps the most significant difference in the scope of the two events is the aspect of heroes. First responders to the World Trade Center, people in the Towers, Pentagon, and on flight 93 displayed courage and fortitude that was in fact – heroic. The sheer amount of stories and displays of that courage exhibited during the events of 9/11 far exceed those of the events of 11/22.
It took several years for the classroom history books to ‘cover’ the assassination of JFK as a historical event. In contrast, the coverage (in a historical sense) of 9/11 began almost immediately. Ten years after 9/11 we have some perspective regarding the events that led up to and followed that fateful day. However I wonder how different our perspective will be in another 38 years. As we approach the 48th anniversary (or remembrance) of the events of November 22nd, 1963, how different is the perspective than it was only ten years (1973) after?
Of course we will never forget and it bothers me that anyone could ever suggest that would be possible.