OPINION: On 9/11, ‘The World Hears You’ once again
Amid the hate, division and anger that plagues the country, the memory of 9/11 and of those who died still manages to unite and inspire New Yorkers.
Seventeen years have passed, but for millions of Americans it is still like yesterday. Millions of New Yorkers remember getting a call from a friend asking, “Did you hear what happened?” and then turning on their televisions to watch an unspeakable tragedy unfold. The twin towers, the icon of American greatness, were reduced to burning rubble. It was hard to believe what we were watching with our own eyes.
As they read the names of the dead at a ceremony at ground zero, New York will watch in tears. Brooklyn and Queens were home to a great many of the first responders who lost their lives on that terrible morning. They will forever be our heroes.
The tragedy continued for years as first responders died from cancer related to the dust cloud that covered lower Manhattan.
Despite the anger and grief, there were moments that will stand forever in our collective memory, moments that reminded New Yorkers that the entire nation stood with us.
One of these occurred three days after the attack when President George W. Bush stood in the middle of the smoldering rubble at ground zero and, with one arm around a firefighter, speaking through a bullhorn, proclaimed to the weary rescue workers: “I want you all to know that America today, America today is on bended knee, in prayer for the people whose lives were lost here, for the workers who work here, for the families who mourn. The nation stands with the good people of New York City and New Jersey and Connecticut as we mourn the loss of thousands of our citizens.”
When one of the rescue workers shouted, “We can’t hear you,” Bush responded, “I can hear you! I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you. And the people, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”
For Bush, it was a moment of true leadership. When the U.S. needed him the most, he was ready. For New York, it was a reminder that we were not alone and America could not be defeated. Nobody cared if Bush was a Republican or Democrat. At that moment, we were all Americans.
It was also a moment of greatness for Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who headed the recovery effort. It was a time when political differences were set aside and strong leaders held a grief-stricken and stunned city together.
Today’s 9/11 memorial comes just weeks after the passing of Aretha Franklin and Sen. John McCain. Although the two stood on different sides of many issues, they were both heroes who stood up for what they believed was right. Like 9/11, their passing brought out the best of the U.S.
No one remembers the names of the terrorists or the reason for their attack. If their goal was to intimidate or divide this nation, they failed miserably.
On Sunday in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, a 93-foot tall Tower of Voices was dedicated at the Flight 93 National Memorial. Wind chimes will honor each of the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93, who died when their plane crashed on 9/11.
Once again, this year two spotlights will be aimed heavenward as a tribute to those who died on 9/11. We are proud to note that just a month after Sept. 11, 2001, the staff of the Brooklyn Eagle decided to devote the front page to a suggestion for memorializing the victims of the terror attacks. It is believed to be the first public suggestion of such a use of light beams aimed skyward to form a fitting memorial image.
The Tribute in Light, which is now used as a memorial every year, is an art installation of 88 searchlights placed next to the site to represent the twin towers. The two beams of light run for 24 hours.
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