A Victory Girls Collective: Letters About 9/11
A Victory Girls Collective: Letters About 9/11
Today is the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when Islamic terrorists hijacked four airplanes and murdered almost 3,000 Americans. The country swore that day that we would never forget. But what about the people too young to remember? The ones who were brought into the world after 9/11, who have never known a world without terrorism? All these years later, have we forgotten? And what does 9/11 mean in today’s world? This year, the Victory Girls have written letters to commemorate the anniversary of 9/11, reflecting on how the attacks will continue to shape our world in the days ahead.
To my beautiful children:
It has been 15 years since the world changed forever, and it’s the only world that you will ever know. I was 17 when 9/11 happened, a senior in high school. I watched as the second plane hit the south tower; for days, I saw footage of people jumping from the buildings. The safety that I had previously taken for granted was shattered. Attacks like these didn’t happen in the United States, couldn’t happen here. Evil was an abstract construct. Horrors like these were reserved for history books. And that illusion of safety was completely and utterly destroyed on 9/11. Something inside of me died that day. Something inside all of us did.
But you will never know anything but 9/11. You may not know it now, but your life has been shaped by what happened 15 years ago. Every facet of American life and culture was affected. We’re still fighting a war because of 9/11. There are people fighting for their country in this War on Terror because of 9/11 who were toddlers when it happened, who don’t even remember it. In a few short years, there will be people enlisting who weren’t even born, fighting — and dying — for an attack that they weren’t even alive for.
What will 9/11 mean to you as you grow up? My fear is that for you, it will be no different from Pearl Harbor, a terrible thing that you read about in history books. And the reality is, it’s up to you to bring 9/11 into the future. It will be up to you to remember once we have passed on.
You might wonder why it matters. And the obvious answer is that your life is still shaped by 9/11. Should you choose to join the military, you’ll need to understand what you are fighting for. The increased security measures and the need to be constantly alert is because of 9/11. But more importantly, you need to know that there are people who hate us. It may be hard to understand, because the United States is the greatest nation this earth has ever seen. There is nowhere that defends freedom the way that this country does; nowhere that offers the opportunities that this country does. But there are people who hate us. They hate what we stand for, so much so that they are willing to murder innocent people all over the world. And it’s not because of anything we have done. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that. This is the reality of Islamic terrorism, which we realize now was our enemy for decades preceding 9/11. There is danger in the world, and violence, and extremism, and while it may be easier to hide away, you must be willing to stand up and fight back.
On 9/11, we showed the world what the American spirit is. We showed the world bravery, and selflessness, and resilience. We showed people that they can try to tear us apart, but it will only bring us closer together. We showed people that what this country stands for cannot be destroyed. And it will be up to you to bring that legacy in the future.
Dear future Americans,
In a few paragraphs and a picture, I’m going to try to explain the most hauntingly horrific memory I have of 9/11. It’s of the people who chose to jump from the Twin Towers that terrible day 15 years ago, rather than die from the fire and smoke. They were called simply, “The Jumpers.”
Desperate people, knowing that help could not come in time, jumped from all four sides of the 110-story north tower. They jumped alone, they jumped in pairs and they jumped in groups. They jumped holding hands. The eyewitness accounts, as you can imagine, are horrible. The jumping started shortly after the first jet hit at 8:46 a.m. People jumped continuously during the 102 minutes that the north tower stood. Two people even jumped as the north tower began to fall at 10:28 a.m., witnesses said. For those who jumped, the fall lasted just 10 seconds. They struck the ground at 125 miles per hour — not fast enough to cause unconsciousness while falling, but fast enough to ensure instant death on impact. It is estimated that at least 200 people jumped to their deaths that morning, far more than can be seen in the photographs available to the public. Nearly all were from the north tower, which was hit first and collapsed last. Fewer than a dozen of the jumpers were from the south tower, also 110-stories high.
Photographs of people falling to their deaths shocked the world. Most newspapers and magazines ran only one or two photos, then chose to not publish any more. But the few images that were out there, like The Falling Man, resonated with unbelief. Nobody survived on the floors from which people jumped. Ultimately the 9/11 jumpers – often called the day’s most public victims – chose not whether to die but how they would die. I could only pray for such courage.
Love our country, protect and defend our freedoms, do what is required no matter the cost.
Lan astaslem. I will not submit,
My dearest grandson Gus,
Someday when you are older you will learn what happened to our nation on September 11, 2001. You will hear how terrible that day was for all Americans. But I want to tell you about how a bold and wise president was strong and determined when the rest of us were in tears and frightened for the future. His name was George W. Bush. He told us that, “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.” He promised us he would make sure the nation would be safe. And for the rest of his presidency, we never had another terrible attack on our American homeland. He kept his word.
President Bush also had a special admiration and respect for the people who have taken an oath to protect and defend the nation — people like your daddy. Almost four years after 9/11, your daddy graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, and President Bush was on hand to ad-dress all the young midshipmen who were graduating and being commissioned as officers. Here is a picture of your daddy being congratulated by President Bush on that very important day. You can see how proud the president is of what your daddy had become — a new ensign in the U.S. Navy. I don’t know if you will go to the Naval Academy. I know your daddy and mama would be proud if you did. But if you do, I pray that your president — your Commander-in-Chief — will be as staunch a defender of America and its military as President Bush was.
All my love,
This is what life was like before. When we flew anywhere, it was a quick trip to the airport. There was no TSA, when you dropped someone off at the airport you could walk them to the gate. No watching for issues. No troops on bridges. It was safe because we flew from home. And did not see the festering messes out there. We believed we were safe. Sure things happened outside the Continental United States but that was foreign.
Wendy Mills said the following here:
“Here’s a whole generation of kids who weren’t alive and don’t know what it was like that day, and they’re not going to know the world before 9/11. It wasn’t a perfect world, but it felt like a safer world.”
A few hours on the morning of September 11, 2001 changed everything. For the families of the murdered, a hole was created and for the rest of us the world became smaller and less safe. We became Israel and have learned to live in fear thanks to cowards and bullies. We are worried about censoring speech, not neutralizing a threat. Please do better than we did.
Love you all.
Dear Class of 2017,
As you get ready to step foot into the next chapter of your lives, some of you wonder why 9/11 matters.
It matters because 9/11 is an integral part of the fabric of your life, and there are young men and women in your graduating class who had a family member murdered by terrorists that day. 9/11 matters because it was made horrifically clear that Islamic terrorism is real. It matters because of the heroes who RAN INTO the towers, the Pentagon, and a Pennsylvania field to save fellow Americans. It matters because of the courage and strength of American men and women from all walks of life who fought back by whatever means necessary.
9/11 is about American courage, resolve, and triumph over terror. Do not let anyone ever tell you that honoring those who died on 9/11 at the hands of murderous terrorists is wrong. Terrorism didn’t win then and you shouldn’t let it win now. Therefore I challenge you, the Class of 2017 to stand for America, for freedom, and against terrorism. I challenge you to always remember, always honor, and never forget the act of terror that tried to tear America apart… and failed because of Americans just like you.
Dear Anti-war Activists:
If, on September 11, 2001, your loved one was on one of the flights, you would have known, immediately that survival was not possible. You saw the mark of the first plane that flew into the South Tower. You watched the second plane fly into the North Tower. You could see the scarred land in Pennsylvania and the gaping hole in the Pentagon. But, what if your loved one worked in one of the Towers of the World Trade Center. In the hours and days that followed, your loved one didn’t come home. Was she in a hospital? Was he walking around lost with amnesia?
Trying to make your brain understand that your loved one was possibly vaporized by the jet fuel burning or jumped from one of the buildings would be impossible to take in. Your lover, or your child or parent choking on smoke in a darkened office and then the building crumbling around them how could the mind take that in. The brain shouts NO! So, the family members made posters and tacked them up all over Lower Manhattan. Praying and hoping against hope. Please let Dad be alive somewhere. Please let our only daughter be in a hospital without identification. Please let my husband have amnesia. The posters were a plea to God from the men and women whose loved ones worked in the Towers. Please, God!
Yesterday, one day short of the 15th anniversary of 9/11, you joined the United States Marine Corps. You were only in second grade when the towers came down. Even though I had served in the Marines, I marveled at my fellow Americans who soberly made the choice to serve after that fateful day. But today I marvel at you.
I can remember a time when terrorism was not at the forefront of national security. That was a long time ago, when I was a Marine. But for you, I imagine it seems like it has always been this way. I never feared true battle, or ever thought my friends who participated in small operations wouldn’t make it home. But today, I know those things do happen.
I was proud of my service, and have no regrets. But I did not serve under the same conditions, and I did not have to contemplate the things you must be thinking about now. I admire your courage and your resolve in the face of this changed reality. I know there are more like you out there. And because of this, I believe that that star spangled banner will still wave, over the land of the free, and the home of the brave.
I so vividly remember September 11, 2001. To you, what happened that day is as equally distant as what happened at Pearl Harbor, because you weren’t even born yet. This summer, as we visited the USS Arizona and looked at pictures and read names, it became more real. When stories have names and faces attached, they suddenly have more weight and feeling. Pictures speak louder than words. So here are some names and faces of people who died on September 11th. These might have been your friends, or friends of your younger brothers. Their names are Christine Hanson, David Brandhorst, Juliana McCourt, Bernard Brown, Asia Cottom, Rodney Dickens, Dana Falkenberg, and Zoe Falkenberg. David and Dana were three – the same age as your little brother. Bernard, Asia, and Rodney were all eleven and just a year behind you in school.
I wish that I could have told you that children your age and your brothers’ ages were spared that day. But just as you wiped away tears over the desperate sailors trapped inside the USS Oklahoma when it capsized in Pearl Harbor, you also cried over these names and their faces when I first told you that children died on September 11th. Evil does not care how old you are. It only cares that you are not on its side. Remember these names and faces. Someday, help me tell your brothers about them. You are now older than any of these children, even though you were born after they died. You can help make sure their memories live forever – by remembering them.
Dear 2016 America,
Fifteen years have passed since evil attacked our nation. And in those fifteen years, our definition of courage has morphed dramatically. It’s brave loitering on a freeway, blocking traffic, and screeching about how Black Lives Matter while hurling expletives at law enforcement; and it’s courageous to wed your same-sex spouse and demand your fellow American bake you a cake. But I don’t blame us for awarding courage to those undeserving of it; our schools, our entertainment, our media, most have elected not to honor true heroes, or to show the true horror of 9/11, but to elevate to that stature false idols whom they drench in gold plate. On September 11, 2001, aboard a flight bound for San Francisco, the world witnessed the definition of courage. And it arose in the actions of a handful of selfless passengers, who chose, not to be victims, but to fight back against an evil hell bent on destroying us.
So you see, courage isn’t found in a wealthy, biracial, professional quarterback sitting on his bum protesting oppression; nor is it found in an affluent pop songstress who profits selling propaganda to anyone who will listen. No, courage is found in your loved ones waiting helplessly on the ground, who know you’re about to do what you must, and realizing they’ve just heard the last words you’ll ever speak to them. And courage is knowing your next action will likely result in your own death, but summoning the will to do it anyway. And I can only hope, that should I ever find myself in a situation where I know I must choose whether to passively succumb to evil or sacrifice my own life in order to save the lives of countless others, that I’d somehow gather the nerve to act. That’s what Todd Beamer, and all those brave men and women aboard that fateful flight, taught America that pivotal day in September fifteen years ago. And we should never forget what real bravery looks like, and not dole out courage-awards recklessly, but honor only those who truly deserve it. So “Let’s roll.” Because that is the legacy of Flight 93.
Dear Post-9/11 Children,
We know you look up to them. Those professional athletes who refuse to stand for The Pledge of Allegiance because of racist oppression? Those same athletes who wear cartoon pigs with police hats on their feet? Musicians, Hollywood actors, directors, who throw around their intellect. Some of you treat their political views as gospel with their blatant hypocrisy of shoot-em-up films, hiring of armed security guards and anti-law-enforcement rhetoric. You’ve heard it all and then some from those with the stag, the cameras and the microphones. And yes, sadly, you’ve heard it from our own President! Over the years, you’ve seen the rioting in the streets because the men and women in blue have supposedly treated others unfairly and it’s time for a “revolution”. Cops are killers, they are racists, they are troubled war veterans who have not been appropriately trained for the job and as a result, go crazy shooting up “innocent” inner city kids. They are “pigs in a blanket” and must “fry like bacon”.
On a beautiful September morning in 2001 in New York City, these “bullies in blue” rushed to the site of two burning buildings and boldly entered, climbing staircases that eventually would collapse leading them to their demise. They ventured into an inferno of heat and toxic fumes of jet fuel to succumb to their last breaths. They’ve carried people out of the flaming towers and went back in to grab more souls. And no, they didn’t just save the “white people”. Black Lives Mattered. So did Hispanic lives. So did LGBT lives. So did Jewish lives. So did Muslim lives. They did not discriminate. The ones who did not die that day, stayed on and searched through the rubble-digging, sifting through concrete and steel, attempting to provide a sense of calm to those when it took all the strength they could muster to not break down inside. Months afterwards at many funerals, they shed tears for the families of their unit members who did not live to tell any heroic tales. Fifteen years later, they are being told that their presence is a threat. They’ve had razor blades stuck in their food orders, have been kicked out of public establishments and told their presence was not welcome. Even though, they were welcome to venture into One and Two World Trade Center and The Pentagon on that fateful day. I’m here to tell you that these people, the mouthpieces in the form of major league athletes, well-known celebrities among many others, could care less about you and are lying to you. Post 9/11 Generation, law enforcement officers are not crazed killers on a power trip in a uniform. They are normal people with hopes and dreams and lives and families who thought of something greater than themselves on that day. We hope someday that you will open your eyes and cut through the smoke, haze and twisted rubble of lies you have been fed.