12 years later, we remember


The 12th anniversary is one we often overlook. The first 10 are important, then maybe the 15th and 20th, but the 12th doesn’t seem important.

Unless it’s the anniversary of a loss you suffered and still grieve.

Thus across America, in cities large and small, quiet bands of people will gather in town squares, at fire stations, at flag poles to remember lives lost 12 years ago when four hijacked airliners crashed, two into the World Trade Center towers, one into the Pentagon and one into an open field in western Pennsylvania.

In Pine Bluff, numerous observations are scheduled:

At Pine Bluff High School, the History Club and Art Club will present its annual 9-11 Remembrance Day Ceremony on the football field at 9:08 a.m. The U.S. flag will be presented by the ROTC Color Guard. The National Anthem will be played by the PBHS band. Special tribute and lighting of candles by club members in honor of the victims.

At Southeast Arkansas College, it is First Responders Day from noon until 12:45 p.m. at the college flagpole across from the library. The purpose is to ensure we never forget the tragic events of 9/11/01 and to show appreciation for firefighters, law enforcement, medical support personnel, parole officers, veterans, counselors and EMTs as well as other who make our communities safer.

Also, the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program of Jefferson County will participate in a National Day of Service. Community heroes will go to elementary schools to read to students. Representatives of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Dept., Pine Bluff Police Department, Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services, White Hall Police Department, and the Pine Bluff Mayor’s Office will be accompanied by RSVP volunteers to participating schools.

And all Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services personnel will assemble at attention in front of each fire station flag pole or a central location in front of the building at 8:58 a.m. At 8:59 sirens sound for one minute (time of collapse of South Tower of World Trade Center.) At 9 a.m., there will be one minute of complete silence. The Firefighter Prayer will be read.

The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were a series of four coordinated actions launched by international terrorist organization al-Qaida. The attacks killed almost 3,000 people, including those on the hijacked airplanes — 227 passengers and crew and 19 hijackers.

On the ground, 343 firefighters died in rescue attempts, making the the incident the deadliest on record for American firefighters.

In the intervening years, in Operation Enduring Freedom, military action in Afghanistan taken by a coalition of nations led by the United States, 3,372 coalition military troops have died, including 2,271 Americans, according to icasualties.org.

Those numbers of course do not include those who, on that day or in the 12 years since, were irreversibly injured, those who were scarred or those who thought they just lacked the strength to go on. If we were to include them all, we would begin to approach the number Rudy Giuliani, mayor of New York 12 years ago, had in mind when he said the final toll of the attacks might be more than we could bear.

So much has changed since that day that we seem like different people; this seems like a different country.

Our idea of war has changed. The way we identify our enemies has changed. What we are willing to fight for and over has changed.

Even now as we consider military action in Syria, our every thought and word are colored by the things we learned 12 years ago and in the time since then.

If anything remains unchanged it is the American determination that we will fight if we must, but we would rather have peace.

In the names of those lost 12 years ago, in the names of those lost in the battles that grew from the attacks, in the names of those who survive and grieve, we say this: We remember. We will never forget.